American Sociological Association

The Price of Protection: A Trajectory Analysis of Civil Remedies for Abuse and Women’s Earnings

We know men’s violence against women is costly. Yet, we know little about the costs—or benefits—of women’s efforts to end it. This study investigates the temporal dynamics of women’s earnings and petitioning for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) civil restraining order. Women’s earnings might rise or fall at the time of petitioning but quickly return to pre-petitioning levels, a short-term boost or shock; or, petitioning might precipitate a longer-term stall or upward shift in women’s earnings. To test for these effects, we use latent growth curve analysis and evaluate women’s earnings trajectories over six years. We find overwhelming evidence that the period around petitioning is one of exceptional earnings instability for petitioners, many of whom experience both shocks and stalls. Virtually no one experiences a boost in the quarter of petitioning or an upward shift in earnings growth in the year after petitioning for a PFA. Welfare, however, buffers negative effects of petitioning on women’s earnings growth. We also calculate lost earnings as the difference between women’s counterfactual projected and estimated earnings. Our findings inform theoretical and policy debates about interventions intended to address poverty and violence against women


Melanie M. Hughes and Lisa D. Brush





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