The Long-Run Effects of Corporal Punishment in Schools


Petrova, Maria, Gautam Rao, and Brian Wheaton. “The Long-Run Effects of Corporal Punishment in Schools,” Working Paper.


Corporal punishment is used in schools in about 70 countries, including in 19 states in the United States. Despite its prevalence as a tool to discipline students, it remains remarkably understudied. We leverage the staggered state-level bans of school corporal punishment in the United States over the past several decades in conjunction with data on social and economic outcomes from the American Community Survey (ACS) and the General Social Survey (GSS), using a difference-in-differences design to measure the causal effects of school corporal punishment.  We find that the presence of corporal punishment in schools increases educational attainment, increases later-life social trust and trust in institutions, and leads to less authoritarian attitudes toward child-rearing, and greater tolerance of free speech.  Additionally, exposure to corporal punishment in school decreases later-life crime.  We find no effects on mental or physical health.  These results hold up to dynamic difference-in-differences specifications – which reveal non-existence of pre- trends – and a wide variety of other robustness checks.  Observing that only a small share of students are exposed to corporal punishment, we argue that the effects primarily represent spillovers resulting from restraining the behavior of disruptive students.

Last updated on 11/12/2020