Social Distancing, Stimulus Payments, and Domestic Violence: Evidence from U.S. during COVID-19

We examine the effects of government-mandated or self-imposed social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the reporting of domestic violence to the police in the United States. Using a large dataset of daily domestic violence calls from 31 police departments for the January–September 2020 period (compared to 2019), we find that the early spike in police calls from the beginning of social distancing disappears around mid-April, when the distribution of CARES Act stimulus payments began. We observe that domestic violence calls for areas with higher concentration of Hispanics and noncitizens remain elevated even after the stimulus payments were delivered since these groups faced greater barriers in accessing the social welfare system. These results highlight the importance of improved access to social safety net programs in combating domestic violence and reconcile earlier findings in the literature of mixed evidence of the impact of COVID-19-induced social distancing on domestic violence.