The Great Recession came with high jobless rates, putting financial and emotional strain on the American consumer.
Economists follow consumer sentiment trends closely as it is tied to economic activity.
However, falling sentiment can be tied to other phenomena that isn’t captured by economic data.
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, William Schneider, and Jane Waldfogel examine the correlation between sentiment and parenting in a new paper titled: “The Great Recession and the risk for child maltreatment.“
“We find that the large decline in consumer confidence during the Great Recession, as measured by the Consumer Sentiment Index (CSI), was associated with worse parenting behaviour,” they wrote. “In particular, lower levels of consumer confidence were associated with increased levels of high frequency spanking, a parenting behaviour that is associated with greater likelihood of being contacted by child protective services.”
“When CSI was 55, only 1.36% of the children were spanked at high frequency,” they wrote. “As CSI increased, indicating worse consumer confidence, the percentage of children spanked at high frequency increased — rising roughly between 0.5 and 1.5 percentage points for every 5-point rise in CSI. When confidence was at its worst (CSI of 85) at the height of the recession, high frequency spanking was predicted to increase to 8.32% of the sample, a rate approximately 6 times what it was when confidence was better (CSI of 55).”
In other words: “Before the recession, less than two per cent of the nine year-olds they studied in America’s major cities were at risk of being abused in this way, but when the drop in consumer confidence reached is nadir, close to 8% were,” said University of Ottawa’s Miles Corak, who alerted us to the study.
“Although it is recognised that spanking in and of itself does not necessarily amount to physical abuse, a broad range of research has linked spanking with negative child behaviours,” said Brooks-Gunn, Schneider, and Waldfogel.