“Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone’s Kids”
Children from families affected by domestic violence decrease the academic achievement and increase the misbehavior of the other children in their classes, according to a study by two economists who set out to examine the widely held belief that one disruptive student can depress learning in a whole classroom.
Scott E. Carrell, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis, and Mark L. Hoekstra, an economics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, estimate that with one student affected by domestic violence in a classroom of 20 children, test scores are reduced by 0.67 percentile points and incidences of behavior infractions by peers increase by 16 percent.
Using court records in Alachua County, Fla., the researchers linked the domestic-violence cases to the schooling records of children who were part of those cases. They then examined the test and disciplinary data of the children from the violent households and those of their classmates in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades in 22 elementary schools for the academic years 1995-96 to 2002-03.
As the number of children from violent households rose in a grade cohort, the 30-page report says, there was a “statistically significant reduction in peer student math and reading test scores and significant peer disciplinary infractions and suspensions.” The researchers also identified boys in such families as the primary drivers of such a “negative spillover.”
The researchers say the results have implications not only for social policy, but also for education policy, including for questions surrounding academic tracking and school choice.
A version of this article appeared in the August 13, 2008 edition of Education Week