Child Maltreatment is a Trillion-Dollar Drain on the Economy

In addition to the very real and often lifelong effects on the individuals involved, child maltreatment also imposes substantial economic costs which can be quantified in a comprehensive manner. When properly measured, child maltreatment drains literally trillions of dollars in long-term business activity.

infographic of economic cost of child abuse

Click above to download an infographic summarizing the report findings. 

“As horrific and unimaginable as it sounds, child maltreatment is pervasive in the United States and ranks as one of the nation’s most pressing public health and social concerns. While many incidents no doubt go unreported, reliable survey evidence suggests that more than 13% of US children are subject to abuse or neglect by a caregiver each year,” said Dr. Ray Perryman, president and CEO of The Perryman Group.

Prior studies have measured some components of the economic cost of child maltreatment and provide valuable insights, but The Perryman Group’s analysis (which was performed as a public service) updates and extends prior work on the subject.

The Perryman Group estimates that each occurrence of first-time child maltreatment costs the US economy about $1.8 million in total expenditures, $800,000 in gross product and $500,000 in personal income. Taken together, the overall economic cost of all of the first-time child maltreatment incidents occurring in the United States in 2014 includes almost $5.9 trillion in lifetime spending, $2.7 trillion in lost gross domestic product, and 27.9 million person-years of employment. Findings are also presented on a state-by-state basis.

There is a compelling case for the investment of public, private, and philanthropic resources into a multi-faceted attack on child maltreatment for pecuniary reasons that go beyond the obvious affront to human dignity and opportunity.

“The primary reason to eliminate child abuse is, of course, to prevent the suffering of the children involved,” said Dr. Perryman. “Our study illustrates the fact that there is also a compelling economic rationale for devoting additional funds to reducing the prevalence and severity of the problem.”

The full study can be downloaded as a PDF below.