Child abuse could cost the US economy $2 trillion every year.
A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined the lifetime cost of child maltreatment across the US in 2015, highlighting the importance of investment in prevention.
Researchers calculated the lifetime costs incurred by neglect, physical violence, psychological maltreatment and sexual abuse. Their calculations include the direct costs of medical treatment and police investigations, as well as the “intangible impacts” on victims and communities across the life course.
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Data from the US Department of Health & Human Services in 2015 was used to establish the prevalence of child maltreatment.
The CDC determined that each child fatality represents a $16.6 million cost to the US economy. In 2015, 1,670 children died due to abuse and neglect in the US alone.
Each case of non-fatal child maltreatment was estimated to cost the economy $830,928 in 2015 currency.
Using substantiated cases of child maltreatment investigated and proven by the relevant authorities the figure sits at $428 billion.
But using figures of all families investigated for suspected maltreatment, regardless of whether charges were substantiated, the figure reaches $2 trillion. According to the CDC, “research has shown that developmental outcomes for investigated children are comparable to those with substantiated maltreatment.”
Cora Peterson, an economist at the CDC and lead author of the study, said: “Exposing children to violence initiates a lifetime of challenges—higher long-term medical costs, child welfare system costs, lower educational and professional attainment among victims and more criminal activity.
“Given the high per-victim cost and population economic burden imposed by child maltreatment, this study’s results suggest that there is a substantial economic benefit to preventing maltreatment.”
Joanne Klevens, an epidemiologist in the sexual violence and child maltreatment team at the CDC said that three areas of intervention could reduce the immense cost to the US economy.
First is bolstering the financial security of households across the country through tax credits, housing, food, and child care assistance, and ensuring that childcare payments from non-custodial parents are delivered in full to the child’s custodial parent.
Second is making work more accommodating to families, including paid sick leave, wage increases, and flexible scheduling.
A third promising solution would expand high-quality and affordable childcare and pre-school education.
In some areas of the country, similar policies are already having an impact.
Expanding pre-school education to communities of colour increased educational outcomes and health outcomes, and saved the city $4,387 per child according to on evaluation.
(Picture credit: Pexels)