The study group provides small grants for scholarly research projects, selected through occasional calls for proposals. Below are the projects that have been funded.


Women, Victimization, and COVID-19 (closing date May 11, 2020; award date June 1, 2020)


The Effect of COVID-19 on Women, Livelihood and Violence in Mwanza, Tanzania

Heidi Stöckl, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Gerry Mshana, National Institute for Medical Research, Tanzania

Abstract: Across the world, reports of increases in intimate partner violence due to COVID-19 related lockdowns or social restriction measures are rising, with the fear that the predicted recession and loss in economic livelihood will lead to further increases. To curb the spread of COVID-19, the Tanzanian government took several measures including closing schools and colleges, banning large gatherings, restricting travel from affected countries and recommending hand washing and social distancing throughout the country. To our knowledge, there is no published evidence on how COVID-19 and the control measures impact women’s physical, psychological and economic well-being, their relationships including intimate partner violence, and their children in low- and middle-income countries. Tanzania already has a comparatively high rate of intimate partner violence, with one in four women reporting physical and/or sexual violence in the last year (Kapiga et al. 2018), and the majority of people are employed in the informal sector. Tanzania is therefore an important setting in which to investigate and monitor the effect of COVID-19 control measures on women’s physical, psychological and economic well-being, and their relationships including their experiences of intimate partner violence to advise future policy directions and interventions. Our study aims to examine this by conducting a two-wave quantitative phone survey of 421 women and two in-depth phone interviews with 15 women currently involved in a longitudinal study on predictors and consequences of intimate partner violence in Mwanza, Tanzania.


COVID-19, Shelter-in-Place, and Domestic Violence in the United States

Rebecca Thornton, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Scott Cunningham, Baylor University
Yunie Le, Claremont Graduate University
Anuar Assamidanov, Claremont Graduate University

Abstract: There are widespread claims and concerns of global increases in domestic violence and child abuse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Multilateral organizations, countries, and local governments are bracing for increased need to support domestic violence victims. In March, the United States budgeted $47 million for domestic violence in its coronavirus relief package and several state governments set aside their own emergency funds. This study uses a rich set of data and robust empirical causal methods to measure the effects of COVID-19 and subsequent public health policies on domestic violence against women, men and children in the United States. Using 911 and 211 calls for service, police records, and arrest/bookings, we exploit the differential timing of shelter-in-place orders, school and childcare closures, prisoner releases, and foot traffic/mobility to study the impact of the pandemic on violence within families. We will also explore heterogeneity across census tract characteristics and where possible, across individual-level demographics and poverty status. Results from our study will help inform policy makers with understanding the ways domestic violence survivors can be supported.


COVID-19 Movement Restrictions and Domestic Violence: Evidence from the United States

Bilge Erten, Northeastern University
Pinar Keskin, Wellesley College
Silvia Prina, Northeastern University

Abstract: Recent anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been a considerable increase in cases of domestic violence in several countries after the introduction of movement restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19. We take advantage of variation across space and time in shelter-in-place policy changes implemented at the state level in the United States, as well as compliance with those restrictions, to estimate the causal impacts of social isolation on the risk of experiencing domestic violence. Our estimates show that online searches for domestic violence hotlines and calls to police departments for domestic violence incidents begin to increase prior to the implementation of these mandated restrictions and continue afterwards. These findings are consistent with the decline in mobility, which started prior to such policies. Results appear to be driven by high-income households who have a greater ability to reduce their movement outside home.


Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Domestic Violence in U.S. Cities

Amalia R. Miller, University of Virginia
Carmit Segal, University of Zurich

Abstract: Around the world, news outlets have reported increases in domestic violence (DV) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant restrictions on individual mobility and commercial activity. Although there are several reasons to expect that DV would increase for married and cohabiting couples, there are also forces that could reduce DV, such as COVID-19 sickness in a household or less time spent together by couples that live apart. It is also likely that victims who wish to report their abusers or seek assistance will face further barriers during the pandemic, which would depress reporting rates. The effects of the pandemic on both true and reported incidences of DV are therefore ambiguous. This project will empirically examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on DV and reported DV. We will initially focus on reported DV using daily, city-level data from individual police departments in major U.S. cities. Starting with real-time police data will allow us to track the effects of the pandemic on cases reported to police within a relatively short timeframe. This can help inform public policy responses to the ongoing pandemic. The high frequency of the data will also be useful for tracking the dynamics of reporting over the course of the pandemic. For example, we may expect a decline in reporting during stay-at-home orders that is followed by an increase when restrictions are lifted. Next, we will integrate additional data sources to the analysis that may shed light on DV reporting as they become available.


The Determinants and Aftermath of Victimization in U.S. Households and the Implications of COVID-19

Keith Finlay, U.S. Census Bureau, Tulane University
Michael G. Mueller-Smith, University of Michigan
Brittany Street, University of Missouri

Abstract: Estimates suggest nearly one-third of all women in the United States experience domestic violence in their lifetime, with higher rates among low-income and minority women (Smith et al. 2017; Currie et al. 2018). Due to a variety of data constraints, it is unclear how domestic violence events fit into the broader context of the lives of women in the United States. These issues are particularly relevant amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as many women and children may be forced to shelter-in-place in undesirable, vulnerable arrangements and face heightened barriers to economic self-sufficiency. We measure domestic violence events through the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the newly created Criminal Justice Administrative Records System (CJARS). These data, along with longitudinal residential and family relation crosswalks built as part of the CJARS project, allow us to identify victims and offenders from survey and administrative records through dwelling-level cohabitation histories. These data are linked at the person level with extensive survey and administrative microdata held by the U.S. Census Bureau to understand how earnings, benefit receipt, family structure, and cohabitation evolve leading up to domestic victimization and in its aftermath. Additionally, the combination of victimization measures based on surveys and administrative criminal justice records, e.g. arrests and charges, allow for exploration of known reporting hurdles specific to domestic victimization that may be exasperated during this pandemic. To understand the potential impacts of shelter-in-place orders, we also estimate the number of individuals at increased risk of domestic victimization using geographic locations, cohabitations, and past victimization histories.


The Shadow Pandemic: COVID-19 and Violence against Adolescent Girls in LMICs

Sarah J. Baird, George Washington University, Milken Institute School of Public Health
Manisha Shah, University of California, Los Angeles Luskin School of Public Affairs

Abstract: COVID-19 has rapidly disrupted the lives of individuals across the globe. Of particular concern is the ‘Shadow Pandemic’ of increased violence against women and girls. For adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), this increased risk of violence is particularly acute due to already existing poverty and gender-based inequalities, as well as decreased access to existing social safety nets including school-based resources. These short-term increases in violence are likely to persist with disruptions in education increasing pressure to marry early and unintended pregnancies, resulting in long-term consequences for the well-being of the adolescent. This proposed analysis, through the use of a rapid phone survey combined with ongoing panel data collection as part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence research program, will provide evidence on the near-term impacts of COVID-19 on the experience of violence by over 2,600 adolescent girls and its consequences across three diverse countries—Bangladesh, Jordan and Ethiopia—as well as across distinct contexts within each country (urban vs. rural; refugee vs. non-refugee), and other important characteristics of the adolescent (e.g. marital status). This analysis will add to the relative dearth of research on the impacts of health crises on adolescents’ exposure to violence in LMICs. Given the alarmingly high prevalence of gender-based violence faced by adolescents and young women, and its expected increase due to COVID-19, it is crucial we begin to understand the causes and consequences of violence in order to develop and advance interventions and policies to reduce this experience of violence.


COVID-19 and Domestic Violence – Evidence from Rolling Quarantines in Chile

Sonia R. Bhalotra, University of Essex
Emilia Brito Rebolledo, Brown University
Damian Clarke, University of Chile
Pilar Larroulet, University of Maryland
Francisco Pino, University of Chile

Abstract: COVID-19 has led to a surge in domestic violence (DV). It is unclear whether this results from income shortfalls and income uncertainty, or from families being locked down together and distanced from their social networks. Identifying causes of domestic violence has always been hard, as systematic data and relevant natural experiments are scarce. Policy responses to COVID-19 provide an opportunity to isolate the underlying mechanisms. Chile has implemented fine-grained rolling quarantines, such that different neighborhoods within a city have been under quarantine at different times. Quarantines have covered at least half the population, and in some cases lasted more than 100 days. We are gathering rich administrative data covering calls to state-sponsored hotlines and to new support channels such as ‘silent’ WhatsApp lines as well as police records. The data show that calls to the national DV hotline have trebled, while formal crime reporting has tended to fall. This suggests a worrying situation in which just as abuse has spiked, avenues for formal redress have become less accessible. We propose primarily to use the rolling nature of quarantines and geographic dispersion in intensity of COVID-19 contagion to examine the causal effect of COVID-19 related lockdown on different measures of DV exposure and reporting, characterizing their dynamic path during the pandemic and lockdown period conditional on seasonal/secular trends. We will then attempt to illuminate the relative contributions of economic stress and confinement. We will also be able to comment on the effectiveness of newly designed services to encourage reporting during the crisis.


The Impact of COVID-19 on Intimate Partner Violence in Urban Peru

Erica M. Field, Duke University
Ursula T. Aldana, Institute for Peruvian Studies

Abstract: There are several reasons health experts worldwide fear an increase in intimate partner violence (IPV) during the COVID-19 pandemic, including economic stress, greater physical proximity of family members, and limited access to support networks. Indeed, anecdotal evidence from several settings suggests increases in police and hotline reports of IPV. In Peru during the first week of the lockdown, the government’s domestic violence helpline registered a 30 percent increase in calls. However, higher reporting of IPV episodes may be driven by changes in reporting behavior rather than incidence of violence. For instance, because victims are isolated from friends and family, they may be more likely to seek help from hotlines. Hence, the degree to which the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has increased rates of IPV remains an important empirical question. To shed light on this, we are working with the Peruvian Ministry of Women to conduct two phone-based surveys of 1800 women located in municipalities across the country and believed to be at heightened risk of IPV. The surveys measure IPV incidence at two points in time post-pandemic, along with changes in household resources and conflict. Our analysis evaluates the causal effect of pandemic-related restrictions in economic and social activity on reported IPV by exploiting spatial variation in the degree of sheltering enforced by local governments. The study seeks to: (i) understand the causal impact of restrictions implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19 on IPV; and (ii) characterize couples at heightened risk as a result of these measures.

Open Calls For Proposals

  • None currently