Domestic Violence Costs to the Economy

The Hidden Crime That Costs This Country $67 Billion

Police respond to domestic violence call
•••  Photo by Ryan J Lane/Getty Images

Domestic violence is physical abuse perpetrated by one household member against another. It takes place in an ongoing relationship where one person uses it to gain control over another. It is committed against a child, spouse, intimate partner, or elder. It includes assault, sexual abuse, and stalking. These forms of violence are criminal. Emotional abuse, such as threats, ridicule, and isolation, are not criminal but can lead to domestic violence. A criminal act of domestic violence usually escalates from emotional abuse.

There are immediate causes that trigger an episode. These include stress, provocation, economic hardship, desperation, jealousy, or anger. The underlying cause is that the person feels violence works for them. They use it to solve their problems and exert control over others. They continue because no one has ever held them accountable for their behavior. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to become abusers themselves.

Leaving the relationship doesn't always end the violence. In fact, that can be the most dangerous time. One-third of homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within a month and one-fifth within the first two days. In these cases, the perpetrator feels a loss of control and so continues to stalk, harass, and threaten the victim after an escape.


Each year, 10 million men and women suffer domestic violence. As a result, one-third of all women and 25% of all men have been victims at some point in their lives. 

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44. That's more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. That's according to page 3 of "Violence Against Women, A Majority Staff Report," by the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, and 102nd Congress.

In addition, between 40 and 60% of the calls to police are domestic violence disputes. This fact is mentioned in Roxann Carillo’s "Violence Against Women: An Obstacle to Development," featured in the 1990 Human Development Report.  

Almost 20% of all violent crime is domestic. Twenty percent of domestic violence involve a weapon. The presence of a gun increases the risk of homicide by 500%. Almost 12,000 women are killed by a domestic violence each year. That's greater than the 6,500 troops killed in combat in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined.

Effect on the Economy

The total cost to the economy is $67 billion. That's after total pain, suffering, and lost quality of life are included, according to Allstate Foundation’s “The Economics of Abuse.

Why are the costs so high? More than half of American cities cite domestic abuse as the top cause of homelessness. Almost 40% of all domestic abuse victims become homeless at some point. More than a third of police time is spent responding to domestic abuse calls. Even in high-income communities, domestic abuse can be the No. 1 crime.

The cost to victims is $8.8 billion. The annual cost to victims of domestic abuse is about $8.8 billion, according to the National Institute of Justice. Health-related costs of domestic abuse exceed $5.8 billion annually, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services. Even five years after the abuse ends, health care costs for women with a history of domestic abuse remain 20% higher than those for women with no history of abuse.

The cost to businesses is $5 billion. Domestic abuse costs U.S. businesses between $3 billion and $5 billion annually in lost time, productivity, and health care costs paid for by the employer. 

Domestic abuse victims experience difficulty in the workplace. This results in lost productivity. Over 7.9 million paid workdays are lost per year. For example, a wrongful death action against an employer who failed to respond to an employee’s risk of domestic abuse on the job could cost the employer $850,000.