Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Philip Porter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joshua Wilde, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wesley Jennings, Ph.D.


Child Fatality, Child Maltreatment, Mandatory Arrest, Medical Marijuana


In 2014, the Child Protective Services received 3.6 million referrals alleging child abuse and neglect, of which, 702,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect and an estimated 1,580 children died due to maltreatment. In addition to this appalling toll, the welfare effects of child victimization are substantial. Evidence suggests that compared to demographically similar adults who were non-victims, adults with documented histories of maltreatment are more likely to engage in criminal behavior; have adverse mental and physical health problems such as depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder; and have lower levels of education and earnings. These essays contribute toward the understanding of the consequences of two very distinctive policies – mandatory arrest and medical marijuana laws – and their impact on child maltreatment.

An important and controversial question in criminal justice policy concerns whether aggressive sanctions, such as mandatory arrest policies, serve as effective deterrents to familial violence. Chapter 1 provides a theoretical framework that models child abuse in which I allow for a strategic interaction between the child and his or her abuser. The comparative statics yield clear predictions of the impact of sanctions on child maltreatment – as the cost and probability of external interventions rise, the probability of violence falls. I follow this theoretical analysis with an empirical investigation of the impact of mandatory arrest policies on child victimization. I find a statistically significant and positive relationship between states that have implemented mandatory arrest laws and reported child maltreatment rates. This may seem surprising; however there are two explanations for the results. The likely explanation is that reporting of maltreatment increased in states mandating arrest; alternatively, recidivism may have increased in these states. Evidence from the OLS estimates for the reporting of abuse and child fatality rates (a proxy for the true incidence of child abuse), demonstrates that the increase in maltreatment is not due to recidivism but, in fact, more people reporting abuse to the police and Child Protective Services. The most important result that emerges from the data, however, is that while reported abuse increases in states with mandatory arrest laws, the true incidence of maltreatment actually falls. The ultimate goal of this paper is to stimulate further theoretical and empirical research that focuses on child abuse and prevention, thus enhancing an understanding of how sanctions influence child victimization.

The next chapter looks at one potential risk factor for child maltreatment –marijuana use and liberalization –using evidence from medical marijuana laws (MMLs). Chapter 2 begins by extending the current MML-crime literature by providing a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of MMLs implemented at the state level on reported child victimization rates. I show that specific modes of medical marijuana regulation differentially influence the magnitude of reported incidences of child abuse, a finding which sheds new light on the current literature. More specifically, using fixed effects analysis applied to data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Database System (NCANDS) and the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), I show that states that allow for home cultivation in addition to decriminalizing its use see a further increase in the magnitude of reported incidences of child maltreatment rates.

Since completing my dissertation, I have continued to investigate into issues that have implications for both theory and practice in my field. To that extent, I plan to analyze the slowly developing public sphere –a platform where culture and social change rely on both media and conversation.

Included in

Economics Commons