State spending on public benefit programs and child maltreatment

Henry T. Puls, Matthew Hall, James D. Anderst, Tami Gurley, James Perrin, Paul J. Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: To determine the association between states' total spending on benefit programs and child maltreatment outcomes. METHODS: This was an ecological study of all US states during federal fiscal years 2010-2017. The primary predictor was states' total annual spending on local, state, and federal benefit programs per person living #100% federal poverty limit, which was the sum of (1) cash, housing, and inkind assistance, (2) housing infrastructure, (3) child care assistance, (4) refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, and (5) Medical Assistance Programs. The main outcomes were rates of maltreatment reporting, substantiations, foster care placements, and fatalities after adjustment for relevant confounders. Generalized estimating equations adjusted for federal spending and estimated adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). RESULTS: States' total spending was inversely associated with all maltreatment outcomes. For each additional $1000 states spent on benefit programs per person living in poverty, there was an associated _4.3% (adjusted IRR: 0.9573 [95% CI: 0.9486 to 0.9661]) difference in reporting, _4.0% (adjusted IRR: 0.903 [95% CI: 0.9534 to 0.9672]) difference in substantiations, _2.1% (adjusted IRR: 0.9795 [95% CI: 0.9759 to 0.9832]) difference in foster care placements, and _7.7% (adjusted IRR: 0.9229 [95% CI: 0.9128 to 0.9330]) difference in fatalities. In 2017, extrapolating $1000 of additional spending for each person living in poverty ($46.5 billion nationally, or 13.3% increase) might have resulted in 181 850 fewer reports, 28 575 fewer substantiations, 4168 fewer foster care placements, and 130 fewer fatalities. CONCLUSIONS: State spending on benefit programs was associated with reductions in child maltreatment, which might offset some benefit program costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021050685
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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