Poverty Indicators in the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System Child File: Challenges and Opportunities

Dylan Jones, Brett Drake, Hyunil Kim, Jun Hong Chen, Sarah Font, Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Richard P. Barth, Tzu Hsin Huang, Melissa Jonson-Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) Child File, the only national dataset cataloging child maltreatment reports. It includes variables representing economic distress frequently used in published research. At the national level, these variables are demonstrably implausible, substantially underestimating economic distress. Method: This paper reviews recent work using these variables, analyzes the NCANDS data directly, demonstrates why the economic variables in NCANDS are unusable at a national level, and provides recommendations for incorporating economic measures using NCANDS. Results: We find 19 articles that have used these variables within the past 10 years. Most states provide implausible estimates. Economic measures can be incorporated into NCANDS data by either subsetting to s states with plausible estimates of these variables in given years, or appending county-level economic Census data. Discussion: Without addressing these variables’ issues in plausibility, use of them will yield biased estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-337
Number of pages13
JournalResearch on Social Work Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology

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