Disproportionate Need as a Factor Explaining Racial Disproportionality in the CW System

Brett Drake, Melissa Jonson-Reid, Hyunil Kim, Chien Jen Chiang, Daji Davalishvili

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores the close association between poverty and child maltreatment. We review evidence demonstrating that this is a real association, and is not substantially attributable to confounding issues such as surveillance bias. An overwhelming body of literature has established that child maltreatment is far more common among the poor individuals and in geographically poor areas. Recent work using more advanced methods such as propensity score matching and randomized controlled trials suggests that this association may be partly causal in nature. We then look closely at issues of racial disproportionality both with and without income or poverty controls. The research is generally consistent in showing that the nearly two to one disproportionality in overreporting of Black children compared to White children disappears or even reverses when income and other risk factors are controlled for. So long as Black families are disproportionately poor, it is likely that Black children will be reported to the child welfare system at higher base rates than White children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationChild Maltreatment
Subtitle of host publicationContemporary Issues in Research and Policy
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameChild Maltreatment: Contemporary Issues in Research and Policy
ISSN (Print)2211-9701
ISSN (Electronic)2211-971X


  • Child maltreatment
  • Child welfare
  • Poverty
  • Racial disproportionality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Health(social science)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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