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How does the minimum wage affect child maltreatment and parenting behaviors? An analysis of the mechanisms

Abstract

Children in low socioeconomic status (SES) families are five times more likely to experience child maltreatment relative to children in high SES families. To determine whether increasing the wages of working poor families can prevent maltreatment, we examine whether changes in the local minimum wage (MW) affect child well-being and parenting behaviors. Using data from a representative, longitudinal survey, we use a lagged dependent variable model to compare parenting behaviors in localities where the MW changed to localities where the MW did not change relative to before the MW change took place. We also explore heterogeneity by child’s age and a variety of potential mechanisms. We find that increasing the minimum wage reduces spanking by both mothers and fathers, as well as physical and psychological aggression by mothers. These results appear to be driven by changes in maternal employment; whereby mothers reduce their employment and change their weekend shifts. We find no significant effects for positive parenting behaviors, household income, or maternal mental health. Finally, older children exhibit fewer externalizing behaviors as a result of increases in the minimum wage. The results of this study help inform the conversation about income supports and employment policies with regard to their effects and pathways to child well-being.

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Fig. 1

Data availability

Data are available from https://fragilefamilies.princeton.edu/.

Code availability

Code is available upon request.

Notes

  1. 1.

    In Supplementary analyses we estimate a pooled model where minimum wage is a function of city and year fixed effects. In this model, 1 – R2 = 0.13.

  2. 2.

    We make two exceptions in following Font & Berger (2015). First, for physical neglect, we do not include whether the household had its utilities shut off, as this could be its own mechanism. Second, for similar reasons, we do not include whether the child was exposed to domestic violence in the supervisory/exposure neglect measure.

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Appendix

Appendix

Tables 914

Table 9 Mean outcomes by child age
Table 10 Effects of minimum wage on childcare arrangements and hours and child support
Table 11 Sensitivity analyses
Table 12 Effects of minimum wage on work, hours, and income from the American community survey
Table 13 Effects of minimum wage on parenting outcomes, hybrid individual fixed effects models with lagged dependent variable
Table 14 Effects of minimum wage on parenting outcomes, hybrid individual fixed effects models with lagged dependent variable

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Schneider, W., Bullinger, L.R. & Raissian, K.M. How does the minimum wage affect child maltreatment and parenting behaviors? An analysis of the mechanisms. Rev Econ Household (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11150-021-09590-7

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Keywords

  • Child well-being
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Minimum wage
  • Income supports

JEL codes

  • I31
  • J13
  • I14
  • I18