Neighborhood Inequality in the Prevalence of Reported and Substantiated Child Maltreatment

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Background: Prior research documents spatial concentration in the incidence of child maltreatment reported to and confirmed by Child Protective Services (CPS), but without estimates of the prevalence of such reports, the extent of CPS contact in different communities is unknown.

Objective: To estimate the prevalence of CPS reports during early childhood and substantiated investigations during childhood for children living in different types of neighborhoods.

Participants and setting: Children who experienced CPS reports and substantiated investigations in Connecticut.

Methods: This study uses synthetic cohort life tables to estimate the cumulative risk of CPS reports before age five and substantiated CPS investigations before age 18, by neighborhood poverty rate and neighborhood racial composition.

Results: The analysis reveals substantial stratification in the prevalence of CPS contact by the demographic characteristics of children’s residential neighborhoods. For example, while 7% of children in low-poverty neighborhoods (under 10% poor) experience a substantiated CPS investigation at some point during childhood at 2014 and 2015 rates, this risk more than doubles to 17% for their peers in moderate-poverty neighborhoods (10–20% poor) and more than triples to 26% for their peers in high-poverty neighborhoods (over 20% poor). Similar trends emerge when examining CPS reports in early childhood as well as when comparing neighborhoods with different proportions of White residents.

Conclusions: CPS reports and substantiated investigations are a widespread and disproportionately experienced life event for children in poor neighborhoods and children in non-White neighborhoods.

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Last updated on 06/09/2019