We empirically investigate the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on domestic violence using incident-level data on both domestic-related calls for service and crime reports of domestic violence assaults from the 18 major US police departments for which both types of records are available. Although we confirm prior reports of an increase in domestic calls for service at the start of the pandemic, we find that the increase preceded mandatory shutdowns, and there was an incremental decline following the government imposition of restrictions. We also find no evidence that domestic violence crimes increased. Rather, police reports of domestic violence assaults declined significantly during the initial shutdown period. There was no significant change in intimate partner homicides during shutdown months and victimization survey reports of intimate partner violence were lower. Our results fail to support claims that shutdowns increased domestic violence and suggest caution before drawing inference or basing policy solely on data from calls to police.
We thank Daniel Hamermesh, Megan Stevenson, and Geoffrey Warner, as well as conference participants at the NBER Health and COVID-19 Fall 2021 Meeting, the NBER Gender Working Group and Caregiving Meetings and the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics conference on Economics Perspectives on Domestic Violence, and seminar participants at American University, Higher School of Economics, LSE, US Census CES, and UVA Law School for helpful comments. We thank Andrew Farquhar, Julia Kothmann, and Matthew Yorkilous for outstanding research assistance. We acknowledge financial support from the IZA COVID-19 Research Thrust and from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through the NBER Gender in the Economy Study Group Research Grants on Women, Victimization, and COVID-19. We have no competing interests to disclose. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Amalia R. Miller & Carmit Segal & Melissa K. Spencer, 2022. " Effects of COVID-19 Shutdowns on Domestic Violence in US Cities, " Journal of Urban Economics, .