Lifetime Cost Of Having A Child

March 1, 2012 by staff 

Lifetime Cost Of Having A Child, A few weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a dire but largely dispassionate report on the economic impact that child maltreatment has on the United States. A team of researchers examined domestic child maltreatment cases for the year 2008 and calculated all of the factors you might expect from economists — health care costs, productivity losses, child welfare costs, criminal justice costs, and so on. All of that computation helped them find the “total lifetime economic burden” of child maltreatment in this country: a colossal $124 billion.

My first career calling was as a social worker, and I spent my early 20′s working on child abuse and neglect cases, and so I have some personal context with which to view this report. What struck me most about it was not the staggering amount of money that child abuse costs the nation. We know, after all, that despite its often latent nature, the abuse and neglect of children by the people they count on most to protect them is a horrific and far too frequent reality. That its economic consequences are so high is hardly a surprise. More of a curiosity to me was the basis for the report, its genesis and underlying premise. Why quantify child maltreatment’s economic costs in the first place? Must we make an economic argument as to why protecting the most vulnerable people in a society should be a matter of highest priority? Is a moral argument insufficient? Must we discover that stopping child abuse comes with an attractive ROI before we take steps to prevent it?

Within the developing world, we know all too well the connection between child maltreatment and economic reality. Much of the abuse of children that takes place in underdeveloped countries is due directly to the economic stress within families. Unable to cope with dire financial situations, parents take out their stress on their children in the form of physical abuse or in some cases by neglecting their role as care-givers and providers. Some even consign their children to days of hard and often exploitative labor because they need the money. This is a far cry from the perfectly acceptable practice of having their children work on the family farm or around the home, which is a widespread and productive practice within developing countries. The children who are maltreated are those who must endure dangerous and unsanitary conditions — in sweatshops, squalid workhouses and even military training camps. The United Nations estimates that the number of children laborers — children between the ages of five and 14 — exceeds 215 million worldwide. More than half of those children are engaged in hazardous often fatal work, sometimes for as much as 12 to 18 hours a day.

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