Financial Costs of Childhood Exposure to Domestic Violence

Unprecedented study reveals price the public pays

For children exposed to domestic violence, the toll is immeasurable. But what's the financial cost to society?

About $55 billion, according to a study by Case Western Reserve researchers published earlier this year in the Journal of Family Violence and called "groundbreaking" by the publication's editor, Rebecca Macy.

Researchers from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and the Weatherhead School of Management teamed up and, following a methodology used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), produced the first study to estimate the financial cost to society of childhood exposure to domestic violence over a lifetime.

"This is a significant public health problem that not only means long-term negative consequences for these children, but also imposes a substantial financial burden to society," said Megan Holmes, PhD, a study co-author, associate professor and founding director of the new Center on Trauma and Adversity at the Mandel School.

The researchers calculated that by the time just one child exposed to domestic violence reaches age 65, the average cost will surpass $50,000, with at least $11,042 in increased medical costs in taxpayer-funded healthcare programs, $13,922 in costs associated with violent crimes and $25,531 in employment productivity losses.

More than 15 million children in the United States are exposed to domestic violence each year. To arrive at the $55 billion figure—which Holmes said was a conservative estimate—researchers crunched numbers using the CDC methodology.

The trauma center has shared the findings with the Ohio Attorney General's office. "The hope is that if more policymakers become aware of the financial costs of domestic violence exposure, they will expand domestic violence prevention," said Jennifer King, DSW, an assistant professor at the Mandel School and the center's assistant director.

—Colin McEwen