Poverty is a well-recognized risk factor for child abuse, but a new study "Community Poverty and Child Abuse Fatalities in the United States" published in the May issue of Pediatrics (published online on April 24), found higher rates of child abuse fatalities in counties with higher concentrations of poverty.
Researchers examined Centers for Disease Control Compressed Mortality Files from 1999-2014 and compared this information against poverty data from the U.S. Census and found that counties with the highest poverty concentrations had more than three times the rate of child abuse fatalities compared to counties with the lowest poverty concentration.
During the 15 years covered by the study, 11,149 children ages 4 and younger died from abuse in the United States, and the national child abuse fatality rate for the study period was 3.5 deaths per 100,000 children in that age group.
The study found that child abuse fatality rates increased with poverty rates, ranging from 1.3 deaths per 100,000 children in counties with under 5 percent poverty concentrations to the highest risk of fatal abuse, infants in counties with poverty concentrations of at least 20 percent with a fatality rate of 9.6 deaths per 100,000.
Researchers concluded that community leaders, child advocates, public health officials, and health care professionals must consider community poverty when developing efforts to prevent child abuse deaths, but more research is needed to understand the reasons why this association exists between poverty and child safety.
Editor's Note: A related commentary, "No Surprise: The Rate of Fatal Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is Related to Poverty," is also being published in the May Pediatrics.