Poverty undeniably brings a number of negative outcomes. Children from poor family, for instance, may not afford an environment and necessities they need to enjoy life. Crimes are also more associated with those that belong to the lower socio-economic class than those who are financially well-off. A new study, however, has shown that the impact of poverty is strongest in localities where there is a large gap between the rich and the poor.
For the study "Income Inequality and Child Maltreatment in the United States" published in the journal Pediatrics Feb. 10, a team of researchers from the Department of Human Development and Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research in Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, wanted to examine the relation between county-level income inequality and rates of child maltreatment in the United States.
"We have known for some time that poverty is one of the strongest precursors of child abuse and neglect," said study researcher John Eckenrode, a psychologist at the Cornell University. "In this paper we were also interested in areas with wide variations in income - think of counties encompassing affluent suburbs and impoverished inner cities - and in the U.S. there is quite a lot of variation in inequality from county to county and state to state."
Eckenrode and his colleagues gathered data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System as well as from the American Community Survey and the Health Resources and Services Administration Area Resource File to analyze reports of child abuse and neglect in 3,142 U.S. counties between the periods 2005 and 2009.
The researchers observed that the rate of child maltreatment increases as inequality rises indicating a direct correlation between incidence of child maltreatment and income inequality.
"More equal societies, states and communities have fewer health and social problems than less equal ones - that much was known. Our study extends the list of unfavorable child outcomes associated with income inequality to include child abuse and neglect," the researchers concluded. "The impact of income inequality was also greatest in counties with the highest child poverty rates."
Kate Pickett, a professor of Epidemiology at the University of York in U.K, said that the result of the study shows proof that income inequality can be harmful.
"Given what we already know, it makes sense that income inequality could create a social context where child maltreatment happens," Pickett said. "This adds to past evidence that greater income inequality harms us all."