Income and child maltreatment in unmarried families: evidence from the earned income tax credit

Lawrence M. Berger, Sarah A. Font, Kristen S. Slack, Jane Waldfogel

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70 Scopus citations


This study estimates the associations of income with both (self-reported) child protective services involvement and parenting behaviors that proxy for child abuse and neglect risk among unmarried families. Our primary strategy follows the instrumental variables approach employed by Dahl and Lochner (2012), which leverages variation between states and over time in the generosity of the total state and federal earned income tax credit for which a family is eligible to identify exogenous variation in family income. As a robustness check, we also estimate standard OLS regressions (linear probability models), reduced form OLS regressions, and OLS regressions with the inclusion of a control function (each with and without family-specific fixed effects). Our micro-level data are drawn from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal birth-cohort of relatively disadvantaged urban children who have been followed from birth to age nine. Results suggest that an exogenous increase in income is associated with reductions in behaviorally approximated child neglect and CPS involvement, particularly among low-income single-mother families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1345-1372
Number of pages28
JournalReview of Economics of the Household
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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