KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new report released Tuesday highlights the economic impacts, among others, stemming from children suffering abuse in Tennessee.
The report from the University of Tennessee Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, the Second Look Commission, and the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth looked at the economic impact child abuse and neglect has in the Volunteer State, finding there is a 1-in-8 chance that a child in Tennessee is a substantiated victim of child abuse by the time they reach adulthood.
With that number in mind, experts behind the study also estimated the economic impact of substantiated claims of child abuse and neglect in Tennessee to be between $3.33 and $4.97 billion per year. That includes claims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug exposure, and neglect.
Experts at the Boyd Center also calculated the lifetime costs per child abuse victim, taking into consideration areas like increased medical costs, demands on the education system, costs of juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior in adulthood, and decreased wages and productivity among survivors to name a few. According to the report, the lifetime costs per child abuse victim ranges between $285,000 and $425,000.
Matthew Harris, the Boyd Distinguished Professor of Health Economics at the University of Tennessee, was a part of the research. He spoke about the purpose of the study.
“Putting things in economic terms, it tends to be useful in making the case that this problem is worth addressing with increased funding,” Harris said.
“We were just shocked, just struck at how prevalent this problem is and also how costly from an economic perspective this problem is,” he continued. “We knew it was costly from an emotional perspective, but the economic magnitudes of it are still just really large.”
Harris also spoke about how the economic estimates in the new report are on the more conservative side, adding in reality the numbers could be much higher.
“Part of the challenge with child maltreatment is that the cost of that aren’t born immediately, the cost of that have ripple effects over the life course of the victims of abuse and maltreatment,” he said. “The economic impact of child maltreatment in some ways is dependent on how much we value the future relative to the day.”
He says while it was his role to break down the numbers behind the issue, one area he feels could benefit with some increased funding could be mental health care.
“I do think the funding for therapy for victims of child abuse and maltreatment is a great idea and it’s worth doing on economic terms, but also on personal terms,” Harris said.
Harris also spoke about why it’s essential that everyone care about the issue, even if it’s not happening under your own roof.
“This is an issue that’s everywhere around us and the most important thing is that the children who are experiencing this get the help that they need and get the treatment that they need so that they can live the fullest lives that they can,” Harris said. “This report tells us that them living their fullest lives will yield not just personal benefits, but economic benefits to us too as members of the state of Tennessee.”
In conclusion, Harris said the efforts to prevent child maltreatment and to help young victims recover will bring a lifetime of benefits stemming from greater labor force participation, improved population health, decreased rates of substance use disorders, lower incarceration rates, reduced demand for state services, and greater life expectancy.
You can read the full report here.