Suffering in Silence: How COVID-19 School Closures Inhibit the Reporting of Child Maltreatment

32 Pages Posted: 17 May 2020 Last revised: 3 Aug 2020

See all articles by E. Jason Baron

E. Jason Baron

Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

Ezra G. Goldstein

Department of Economics, Florida State University

Cullen T. Wallace

Georgia College & State University

Date Written: July 29, 2020

Abstract

To combat the spread of COVID-19, many primary and secondary schools in the United States canceled classes and moved instruction online. This study examines an unexplored consequence of COVID-19 school closures: the broken link between child maltreatment victims and the number one source of reported maltreatment allegations---school personnel. Using current, county-level data from Florida, we estimate a counterfactual distribution of child maltreatment allegations for March and April 2020, the first two months in which Florida schools closed. While one would expect the financial, mental, and physical stress due to COVID-19 to result in additional child maltreatment cases, we find that the actual number of reported allegations was approximately 15,000 lower (27 percent) than expected for these two months. We leverage a detailed dataset of school district staffing and spending to show that the observed decline in allegations was largely driven by school closures. Finally, we discuss policy implications of our findings for the debate surrounding school reopenings and suggest a number of responses that may mitigate this hidden cost of school closures.

Keywords: COVID-19, Child Maltreatment, School Closures

JEL Classification: H75, I18, I28, I31, J12

Suggested Citation

Baron, E. Jason and Goldstein, Ezra G. and Wallace, Cullen, Suffering in Silence: How COVID-19 School Closures Inhibit the Reporting of Child Maltreatment (July 29, 2020). Journal of Public Economics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3601399 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3601399

E. Jason Baron (Contact Author)

Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan ( email )

Ezra G. Goldstein

Department of Economics, Florida State University ( email )

Tallahassee, FL 30306-2180
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.eggoldstein.com

Cullen Wallace

Georgia College & State University ( email )

Milledgeville, GA 31061-0490
United States

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