Racial Bias in Child Protection? A Comparison of Competing Explanations Using National Data
The disproportionate number of black children who are reported and substantiated to be victims of abuse and neglect is more likely the result of risks to the children – specifically poverty – rather than racial bias, according to a new study published this week in the journal Pediatrics.
The study, by six sociologists and social workers, and groups, used actual incidents of abuse and neglect reported to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, which indicated black children are almost twice as likely as white children to be the victims of verified abuse or neglect reports.
Although some have suggested that the incidence of victimization is more a factor of intense scrutiny of black children, the researchers matched other health indicators such as infant mortality, low birth weight and prematurity – which aren’t dependent on reporting – to verify that black children, especially those in poor families, are at greater risk of abuse and neglect.
In comparing the representation of Hispanics as the subject of abuse and neglect, the researchers found what has become known as the “Hispanic paradox.” Despite poverty rates that rivaled those of black children, Hispanic children had abuse and neglect rates closer to those of whites.
“Hispanic families have relatively good child health profiles despite high poverty rates and poor access to health care. This paradox may be driven by a combination of protective social and cultural factors,” the researchers said.
In conclusion, the researchers noted, “We found no evidence that racial bias among reporters is a powerful driver of racial disproportionality” in abuse and neglect reports.