Spatial Analyses of the Impact of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families on Child Neglect Caseloads During the Great Recession

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Journal of Social Service Research

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Loss of market income to families is recognized as a major risk factor of child neglect. In the 2008 recession, some poor families replaced their market incomes with cash assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Using secondary data for 42 contiguous jurisdictions and DC, we examined the relationship between increases in TANF caseloads and changes in substantiated child neglect cases in each of the contiguous jurisdiction’s 2008 recession. Key findings suggest that reductions in child neglect cases in the presence of increasing TANF caseloads were more profound in about half the states than any increases in child neglect cases found in the remainder of the states. Applying Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis tools, local spatial clusters were found in four neighboring states in the Midwest-South corridor suggesting that child neglect increases were similar and substantial across these four states. Our findings provide important information to stakeholders who may want to better target federal resources to specific geographic regions. Neighboring states experiencing large increases in child neglect during economic downturns may extend their collaborative efforts so they can develop strategies for improving services. Future research should explain the growth in child neglect with other variables aside from TANF caseloads.


Child neglect; Great recession; Spatial clusters; Impact of TANF on child neglect during the great recession; Temporary assistance for needy families; Spatial analysis


Social Work



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