Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 473–502 | Cite as

Do anti-bullying laws work? New evidence on school safety and youth violence

  • Joseph J. SabiaEmail author
  • Brittany Bass
Original Paper


This study is the first to comprehensively examine the effect of state anti-bullying laws (ABLs) on school safety and youth violence. Using existing data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys and the Uniform Crime Reports, and newly-collected data on school shootings, we find little evidence that the typical state ABL is effective in improving school safety and student well-being. However, this null finding masks substantial policy heterogeneity. State mandates that require school districts to implement strong, comprehensive anti-bullying policies are associated with a 7 to 13 % reduction in school violence and an 8 to 12 % reduction in bullying. In addition, our results show that strong anti-bullying policy mandates are associated with a reduction in minor teen school shooting deaths and violent crime arrests, suggesting potentially important spillover effects.


Bullying Youth violence Anti-bullying laws School shootings 

JEL Classification

I28 I18 K0 



The authors thank Sara Markowitz, Mark Duggan, and Rosa Minhyo Cho for useful comments and suggestions on this paper. We thank Thanh Tam Nguyen for excellent research assistance. Special thanks are owed to D. Mark Anderson, who graciously made school shooting data available to these authors. We also thank conference participants at the Southern Economic Association (SEA) and the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) as well as seminar participants at San Diego State University for useful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper. The authors declare that we have no relevant or material financial interests that relate to the research described in this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

During the three years prior to the acceptance of this article, Dr. Sabia has been awarded grants from the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) and the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) totaling over $10,000. Travel support has also been received from EPI to participate in a minimum wage panel in Washington, DC. Dr. Sabia’s research effort on the current project was not funded by these foundations.


This study did not receive grant funding.


  1. American Psychological Association (2014) Bullying. Retrieved on 11 Aug 2014Google Scholar
  2. Anderson DM, David E (2015) “The Meth Project and Teen Meth Use: New Estimates from the National and State Youth Risk Behavior Surveys.” Health EconomicsGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson DM, Sabia JJ (2016) “Child Access Prevention Laws, Youth Gun Carrying, and School Shootings.” IZA Discussion Paper No. 9830.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson DM, Hansen B, Rees DI (2013) Medical marijuana laws, traffic fatalities, and alcohol consumption. J Law Econ 56(2):333–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Anderson DM, Hansen B, Rees DI (2015) Medical marijuana laws and teen marijuana use. Am L & Econ Rev 24(12):1644–50Google Scholar
  6. Arseneault L, Walsh E, Trzesniewski K (2006) Bullying victimization uniquely contributes to adjustment problems in young children: a nationally representative cohort study. Pediatrics 118(1):130–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker G (1968) Crime and punishment: an economic approach. J Polit Econ 76:169–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bender D, Friedrich L (2011) Bullying at school as a predictor of delinquency, violence and other anti-social behaviour in adulthood. Crim Behav Ment Health 21(2):99–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bertrand M, Duflo E, Mullainathan S (2004) How much should we trust difference and difference estimates. Q J Econ 119(1):249–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blake JJ, Kim ES, Lund EM, and Zhou Q (2014) Predictors of bully victimization in students with disabilities a longitudinal examination using a national data set. J Disabil Policy Stu. DOI: 0.1177/1044207314539012.Google Scholar
  11. Bond L, Carlin JB, Thomas L, Rubink K, Patton G (2001) Does bullying cause emotional problems? A prospective study of young teenagers. Br Med J 323(7311):480–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Broward County Public Schools. Anti-Bullying Policy 5.9, Procedural Manual 2010–2011. Retrieved 30 Jul 2012 from
  13. Bushaw W, Lopez S (2012) “Public Education in the United States: A Nation Divided.” 2012 Gallop Poll Full Report. Retrieved on 11 Aug. 2014.Google Scholar
  14. California Education Code (2003) Section 48900-48927. Suspension or expulsion., Available at: Google Scholar
  15. Cappadocia MC, Weiss JA, Pepler D (2012) Bullying experiences among children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 42(2):266–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carlyle KE, Steinman KJ (2007) Demographic differences in the prevalence, co-occurrence, and correlates of adolescent bullying at school. J Sch Health 77(9):623–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carney JV (2000) Bullied to death perceptions of peer abuse and suicidal behaviour during adolescence. Sch Psychol Int 21(2):213–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cohen, MA (2000) “Measuring the costs and benefits of crime and justice”, in volume 4: measurement and analysis of crime and justice. 4:263–316. Criminal Justice 2000. Available at:
  19. (2015) “School Violence Around the World.” Available at:
  20. Connecticut General Statutes (2010) Section 10-222d. Policy on bullying behavior. Available at:
  21. Craig WM (1998) The relationship among bullying, victimization, depression, anxiety, and aggression in elementary school children. Personal Individ Differ 24(1):123–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Daley A, Solomon S, Newman PA (2008) Traversing the margins: intersectionalities in the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. J Gay Lesbian Soc Serv 19(3–4):9–29Google Scholar
  23. Doll J. Forthcoming. Ending school shootings: a guide to prevention and actionGoogle Scholar
  24. Due P, Holstein BE, Lynch J (2005) Bullying and symptoms among school-aged children: international comparative cross sectional study in 28 countries. Eur J Public Health 15(2):128–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Duncan N (1999) Sexual bullying: gender conflict and pupil culture in secondary schools. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Eisenberg ME, Neumark-Sztainer D, Perry CL (2003) Peer harassment, school connectedness, and academic achievement. J Sch Health 73(8):311–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Eriksen, Tine Louise M, Helena Skyt N, Marianne S (2014) Bullying in elementary school. J Hum Resour 49(4):839–71Google Scholar
  28. (2015a) “Analysis of School Shootings.” Available at:
  29. Faris R, Felmlee D (2011) Status struggles network centrality and gender segregation in same- and cross-gender aggression. Am Sociol Rev 76(1):48–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fekkes M, Frans IM P, Pauline Verloove-Vanhorick S (2006) Effects of antibullying school program on bullying and health complaints. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 160(6):638–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Finland Ministry of Education and Culture (2014) “KiVa International.” Retrieved from: 30 June 2016.
  32. Fox S, Stallworth LE (2005) Racial/ethnic bullying: exploring links between bullying and racism in the US workplace. J Vocat Behav 66(3):438–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Friedman MS, Koeske AJ, Silvestre AJ, Korr WS (2006) The impact of gender-role nonconforming behavior, bullying, and social support on suicidality among gay male youth. J Adolesc Health 38(5):621–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gini G, Pozzoli T (2009) Association between bullying and psychosomatic problems: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics 123(3):1059–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gladstone GL, Parker GB, Malhi GS (2006) Do bullied children become anxious and depressed adults?: a cross-sectional investigation of the correlates of bullying and anxious depression. J Nerv Ment Dis 194(3):201–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Glew GM, Ming-Yu F, Wayne K, Frederick P, Rivara FP, Kernic MA (2005) Bullying, psychosocial adjustment, and academic performance in elementary school. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 159(11):1026–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Green JC, Estlund A, Nishant J, Milan P (2014) “Bullying Prevention Policies and Child Behavior: Evidence Using State Laws.” 142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15-November 19,2014).APHA.Google Scholar
  38. Hansen, Benjamin and Michael Lang (2014) “Bullying and Youth Suicide”. Working Paper, University of OregonGoogle Scholar
  39. Hansen B, Daniel IR, and Sabia JJ (2016) “Have cigarette taxes lost their bite? New estimates of the relationship between cigarette taxes and youth smoking.” Forthcoming in American Journal of Health EconomicsGoogle Scholar
  40. Hatzenbuehler ML, Schwab-Reese L, Ranapurwala SI, Hertz MF, Ramirez MR (2015) Associations between antibullying policies and bullying in 25 states. JAMA Pediatrics 169(10):e152411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hepburn L, Azrael D, Molnar B, Miller M (2012) Bullying and suicidal behaviors among urban high school youth. J Adolesc Health 51(1):93–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hu W (2011) “Bullying Law Puts New Jersey Schools on Spot.” The New York Times 30 August 2011: A1. The New York TimesGoogle Scholar
  43. Jeong S, Lee BH (2013) A multilevel examination of peer victimization and bullying preventions in schools. J Crim 2013:1. doi: 10.1155/2013/735397 Google Scholar
  44. Juvonen J, Graham S, Schuster M (2003) Bullying among young adolescents: the strong, weak, and troubled. Pediatrics 112:1231–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Juvonen J, Wang Y, Espinoza G (2010) Bullying experiences and compromised academic performance across middle school grades. J Early Adolesc 31(1):152–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kaltiala-Heino R, Rimpelä M, Marttunen M, Rimpelä A, Rantanen P (1999) Bullying, depression, and suicidal ideation in Finnish adolescents: school survey. BMJ 319(7206):348–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kim Young S, Yun-Joo K, Bennett L (2005) School bullying and suicidal risk in Korean middle school students. Pediatrics 115(2):357–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Klein J (2012) The Bully Society: school shootings and the crisis of bullying in America’s schools. NYU Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. Konishi C, Hymel S, Zumbo BD, Li Z (2010) Do school bullying and student–teacher relationships matter for academic achievement? A multilevel analysis. Can J Sch Psychol 25(1):19–39Google Scholar
  50. Kosciw JG, Greytak EA, Diaz EM (2009) Who, what, where, when, and why: demographic and ecological factors contributing to hostile school climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. J Youth Adolesc 38(7):976–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kumpulainen K, Eila R, Irmeli H (1999) Children involved in bullying: psychological disturbance and the persistence of the involvement. Child Abuse Negl 23(12):1253–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Langdon SW, Preble W (2007) The relationship between levels of perceived respect and bullying in 5th through 12th graders. Adolescence 43(171):485–503Google Scholar
  53. Lieberman J (2008) School shootings: what every parent and educator needs to know to protect our children. Kensington Publishing Corp, New York CityGoogle Scholar
  54. Markowitz S (2001) The role of alcohol and drug consumption in determining physical fights and weapon carrying by teenagers. East Econ J 27(4):409–32Google Scholar
  55. Massachusetts Advocates for Children Legislation (2010) Section 37O. School bullying prohibited; bullying prevention plans. Available at:
  56. Miller T, Cohen M, Wiersema B (1996) Victim costs and consequences: a new look., Final Summary Report to the National Institute of JusticeGoogle Scholar
  57. Minnesota Management and Budget (2013) “Safe & Supportive Schools Act Explanation of the Bill.” Available at:
  58. Nansel TR, Overpeck M, Pilla RS, June Ruan W, Simons-Morton B, Scheidt P (2001) Relationships between bullying and violence among US youth. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 157(4):348–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Nansel TR, Craig W, Overpeck MD, Saluja G, June Ruan W (2004) Cross-national consistency in the relationship between bullying behaviors and psychosocial adjustment. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 158(8):730–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. National Center for Education Statistics (2012) “Indicators of School Crime and Safety.” Available at:
  61. National School Safety and Security Services (2010) “School Associated Violent Deaths and School Shootings.” Available at:
  62. Ng Josephine WY, Sandra KM T (2008) School bullying and the mental health of junior secondary school students in Hong Kong. J Sch Violence 7(2):3–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. O’Brennan LM, Bradshaw CP, Sawyer AL (2009) Examining developmental differences in the social-emotional problems among frequent bullies, victims, and bully/victims. Psychol Sch 46(2):100–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Oregon Revised Statutes (2009) Section 339. Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying. Available at:
  65. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center (2014) About us. Available at:
  66. Peters, K (2013) “National Survey Reveals Parents’ Deep Concern About Protecting Kids from Violence.” Center for American Progress. Retrieved on 11 Aug. 2014Google Scholar
  67. Piehl AM, Kennedy DM, Braga AA (2000) Problem solving and youth violence: an evaluation of the Boston Gun Project. Am L & Econ Rev 2(1):58–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Radliff KM, Wheaton JE, Robinson K, Morris J (2012) Illuminating the relationship between bullying and substance use among middle and high school youth. Addict Behav 37(4):569–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Rothon C, Head J, Klineberg E, Stansfeld S (2011) Can social support protect bullied adolescents from adverse outcomes? A prospective study on the effects of bullying on the educational achievement and mental health of adolescents at secondary schools in East London. J Adolesc 34(3):579–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sabia J, Anderson DM (2016) Parental involvement laws, birth control, and mental health: new evidence from the YRBS., Forthcoming in Journal of Health EconomicsGoogle Scholar
  71. Sabia JJ, Pitts MM, Argys L (2016) Do minimum wages really increase youth drinking and drunk driving? Working Paper, University of Colorado DenverGoogle Scholar
  72. Salmivalli C, Antti K, Elisa P (2011) Counteracting bullying in Finland: the KiVa program and its effects on different forms of being bullied. Int J Behav Dev 35(5):405–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Saluja G, Iachan R, Scheidt PC, Overpeck MD, Sun W, Giedd JN (2004) Prevalence of and risk factors for depressive symptoms among young adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 158(8):760–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Seals D, Young J (2003) Bullying and victimization: prevalence and relationship to gender, grade level, ethnicity, self-esteem, and depression. Adolescence 38(152):735–47Google Scholar
  75. Stevens V, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Van Oost P (2000) Bullying in Flemish schools: an evaluation of anti-bullying intervention in primary and secondary schools. B J Ed Psychol 70:195–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. (2013) “List of School Shootings.” Available at:
  77. Strøm IF, Thoresen S, Wentzel-Larsen T, Dyb G (2013) Violence, bullying and academic achievement: a study of 15-year-old adolescents and their school environment. Child Abuse Negl 37(4):243–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Sweden Ministry of Education and Research (2016) “Education in Sweden.” Retrieved from 30 June 2016
  79. Taylor-Tharp et al (2009) Victimization from mental and physical bullying and substance use in early adolescence. Addict Behav 34:561–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Turner HA, Vanderminden J, Finkelhor D, Hamby S, Shattuck A (2011) Disability and victimization in a national sample of children and youth. Child Maltreat 16(4):275–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. U. K. Department for Education (2013) “Preventing and tackling bullying.” Retrieved from: 30 June 2016
  82. U.S. Department of Education (2011) Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies. Retrieved from
  83. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014a) What Is Bullying? Retrieved on 11 Aug 2014Google Scholar
  84. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014b) About us. Retrieved on 11 Aug 2014Google Scholar
  85. Undheim AM, Sund AM (2010) Prevalence of bullying and aggressive behavior and their relationship to mental health problems among 12- to 15-year-old Norwegian adolescents. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 19(11):803–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Van Fleet DD, Van Fleet EW (2010) The violence volcano: reducing the threat of workplace violence. Information Age Publishing, Inc, CharlotteGoogle Scholar
  87. Washington Clover Park School District (2016) “Prohibition of Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB)”. Retrieved 30 June 2016
  88. West K (2014) Public health approach in the evaluation of two states’ anti-bullying laws and local school district policies. Working Paper, George Washington UniversityGoogle Scholar
  89. Wilkins‐Shurmer A, Mj O’C, Najman JM, William B, Williams GM, Anderson MJ (2003) Association of bullying with adolescent health-related quality of life. J Pediatr Child Health 39(6):436–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Wolke D, Copeland WE, Angold A, Jane Costello E (2013) Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychol Sci 24(10):1958–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.University of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)BonnGermany
  4. 4.University of California–IrvineIrvineUSA

Personalised recommendations