Understanding the geospatial relationship of neighborhood characteristics and rates of maltreatment for black, hispanic, and white children

Soc Work. 2007 Jan;52(1):7-16. doi: 10.1093/sw/52.1.7.


The disproportionate number of racial and ethnic minority children in the child welfare system concerns many child welfare professionals. Few studies have investigated how neighborhood processes may contribute to this disparity. This study examined how neighborhood characteristics are associated with rates of child maltreatment for black, Hispanic, and white children. Spatial regression procedures were used to analyze data from 940 census tracts in California. For black children, higher rates of poverty and higher densities of off-premise alcohol outlets were positively associated with maltreatment rates, but increases in population since 1990, a higher percentage of residents who had moved, and a higher percentage of black residents were associated with lower rates. Percentage of female-headed families, poverty, and unemployment were positively related to maltreatment rates among Hispanic children. For white children, the percentage of elderly people, percentage of poverty, ratio of children to adults, and percentage of Hispanic residents were positively associated with neighborhood rates. Reducing neighborhood poverty may reduce rates of child maltreatment for all children, but additional efforts to prevent maltreatment at the neighborhood level may need to be tailored to the specific demographic characteristics to be most effective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / ethnology*
  • Child Abuse / trends
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • White People*