Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone&Apos;S Kids
31 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2008 Last revised: 6 Jun 2021
Date Written: August 2008
It is estimated that between ten and twenty percent of children in the United States are exposed to domestic violence annually. While much is known about the impact of domestic violence and other family problems on children within the home, little is known regarding the extent to which these problems spill over to children outside the family. The widespread perception among parents and school officials is that these externalities are significant, though measuring them is difficult due to data and methodological limitations. We estimate the negative spillovers caused by children from troubled families by exploiting a unique data set in which children's school records are matched to domestic violence cases filed by their parent. To overcome selection bias, we identify the effects using the idiosyncratic variation in peers from troubled families within the same school and grade over time. We find that children from troubled families significantly decrease their peers' reading and math test scores and significantly increase misbehavior of others in the classroom. The effects are heterogeneous across income, race, and gender and appear to work primarily through troubled boys. The results are robust to within-sibling differences and we find no evidence that non-random selection is driving the results.
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