Background: Japan is facing a rapid increase in the number of reported child maltreatment cases. Child maltreatment has long-term consequences for the victims, and unemployment rate is considered a strong predictor of it. However, only few studies have analyzed the causal relation between child maltreatment and the unemployment rate—particularly the effects of the latter on the former—in Japan. Methods: Using prefecture-level longitudinal data from 2005 to 2016, we employed a fixed effects instrumental variable estimation. The estimation included a weighted average of the national unemployment rate across industries by industrial structures in 2005 as an instrument to identify the causal effects. Results: The average local unemployment rate changed by approximately 50% from the peak to the bottom in the sample period. A 50% increase in local unemployment rates increased the number of reported child neglect cases and child deaths by 80% and 70% (statistically significant at the 5% level), respectively. Further, it increased cases of death due to external causes, unintentional injuries, and unintentional drowning by 146%, 217%, and 315% (statistically significant at the 5% level), respectively. Conclusion: The local unemployment rate is a risk factor for child maltreatment, resulting in children's death, especially as a result of unintentional drowning—the common cause of death due to child neglect. When the local unemployment rates rise, governments should allocate more financial and human resources for preventive measures to combat child deaths caused by neglect.
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