An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada, 2009

4. Victim Costs (cont'd)

4.3 Productivity Losses

Victims of spousal violence may be prevented from carrying out regular activities because of debilitating physical injuries or time spent on justice system obligations. When the victim is unable to work, attend school, or perform household duties, there is a loss of wages, education, or necessary household work. The GSS asks respondents about the duration of hospitalization resulting from spousal violence, the number of days the victim stayed in bed recovering outside of the hospital, and any additional days the victim was unable to perform daily activities. The questions regarding emergency department visits will also be used in the estimate of lost productivity; it is assumed that one full day of normal activities was missed for victims who visited the emergency department but were not hospitalized overnight, while victims who requiredboth types of hospital service are assumed to have missed time equal to the number of days hospitalized overnight only.

4.3.1 Lost wages

GSS respondents who reported that their main activity during the last 12 months was either “working at a paid job or business” or “maternity/paternity leave” are included in this section. The quantity of lost wages is derived from the amount of time the victims were unable to work and the average incomes of various victim demographic groups. The amount of time that victims were unable to work includes hospitalization time, time spent recovering in bed outside of the hospital, days in the emergency department, and other time off. It is estimated that female victims were absent from work a total of 145,147 days and that male victims were absent from work a total of 45,543 days.

Income ranges are self-reported by respondents of the GSS, and this information is used to estimate victims' daily wages. There are two notable characteristics of victims' incomes that are accounted for in the estimates. Male victims had higher incomes than female victims, and victims of current spouses had different incomes than victims of ex-spouses. Based on 52.18 weeks per year and five working days per week, the estimates for daily wages are: $136 for female victims of ex-spouses, $183 for female victims of current spouses, $294 for male victims of ex-spouses, and $249 for male victims of current spouses. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 through lost wages is estimated at $33,671,686.

Lost wages – SV against females $20,943,599
Lost wages – SV against males $12,728,087
Total Productivity Losses, Lost Wages $33,671,686

4.3.2 Lost household services

All GSS respondents who were victims of spousal violence and who were unable to perform daily activities are included in this section, regardless of each respondent's main activity. Household services, such as cleaning and cooking, have a value even if no monetary transaction takes place, and therefore, there is a loss of value when these services cannot be performed. If a victim is incapacitated by spousal violence, he or she may be forced to either solicit a family member or friend to temporarily complete the household tasks (incurring an opportunity cost), or temporarily hire a household worker (incurring tangible a cost).

Accounting for the time that victims were hospitalized, bedridden, and otherwise unable to perform daily activities, it is estimated that female victims lost 247,598 days of normal productivity, while male victims lost 88,498 days of normal productivity due to spousal violence in 2009. According to the 2010 GSS (Statistics Canada 2011b), women spend, on average, 4 hours per day on household work and related activities (e.g., cooking, housekeeping, shopping for goods and services, child care), and men spend 2.5 hours per day on such activities. According to Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey, the average wage of a household worker for services such as meal preparation, household cleaning, laundry, and sewing was $15.60 per hour in 2009, and this is used as a proxy for the hourly value of household services. Using the number of days of household services lost, the average hours committed to household services, and the average wage of household services, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 through lost household services is estimated at $18,901,600.

Value of lost household services – SV against females $15,450,178
Value of lost household services – SV against males $3,451,422
Total Productivity Losses, Lost Household Services $18,901,600

4.3.3 Lost education

GSS respondents who reported that their main activity during the last 12 months was “going to school” are included in this section. Students who are unable to attend class face costs while attempting to make up for the missed class time. For instance, they may either incur tangible costs by hiring a tutor, or they may incur opportunity costs by studying and refraining from other activities. Severe circumstances may force a student to lose an entire semester or to drop out of school altogether, thus reducing future earning potential. For spousal violence cases, data limitations preclude an analysis of the latter scenario, so only missed class time will be taken into account.

The majority of spousal violence victims are 18 or older, so the cost of missed school days is based on university and college fees. The time that victims were hospitalized, bedridden, and otherwise unable to perform daily activities is counted towards lost education. The GSS finds that female victims missed a total of 6,574 days of school because of spousal violence, while no male victims reported lost education. According to Statistics Canada, the average tuition fee across Canada for undergraduate studies in 2009 was equivalent to $4,926,Footnote 41 which, assuming 125 school days per year, was $39.41 per school day. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on lost education is estimated at $259,081.

Value of lost education – SV against females $259,081
Value of lost education – SV against males $0
Total Productivity Losses, Lost Education $259,081

4.3.4 Lost childcare services

GSS respondents who reported that their main activity during the last 12 months was “caring for children” are included in this section. Victims of spousal violence who are unable to perform normal childcare duties must be temporarily replaced as caregiver by a family member or friend (incurring an opportunity cost) or a hired childcare worker (incurring a tangible cost).

According to the GSS, female victims of spousal violence in 2009 lost a total of 15,761 days of childcare, and male victims lost a total of 2,000 days of childcare, where lost childcare is measured by the time that victims were hospitalized, bedridden, and otherwise unable to perform daily activities. The national average daily cost of childcare services in 2009 is estimated at $30,based on data from Today's Parent.Footnote 42 Following this, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on lost childcare services is estimated at $532,829.

Value of lost childcare services – SV against females $472,829
Value of lost childcare services – SV against males $60,000
Total Productivity Losses, Lost Childcare Services $532,829

4.4 Other Personal Costs

This section includes personal costs not captured in the other sections of Victim Costs. Victims of spousal violence are often subject to personal costs including property damage, fees associated with divorce, and measures taken to avoid criminal harassment.

A victim who is stalked or criminally harassedFootnote 43 by a current or former spouse may be forced to activate special phone features, or in severe situations, to move from one address to another. Criminal harassment is a specific form of psychological and emotional abuse, which is a crime in Canada. Often referred to as stalking or repeatedly following someone from place to place, criminal harassment involves unwanted attention that causes a person to fear for their safety or the safety of someone known to them. The 2009 GSS did not include questions on the impacts of criminal harassment. These data are available from the 2004 GSS and thus, all detailed information on the impacts and consequences of criminal harassment are obtained from the 2004 GSS and are applied to the victim numbers from the 2009 GSS.

4.4.1 Damaged or destroyed property

In 2009, there were 52,501 instances of perpetrators of spousal violence damaging or destroying the property of female victims, and 21,951 similar instances for male victims. Henderson (2000) estimates the cost of property losses per domestic violence victim in Australia at $1,092 AUD in 2000. The Australian survey in Henderson (2000) used criteria that captured more severe domestic violence than the 2009 GSS, and therefore the estimate of average property loss is discounted by 50% for use in this study. After adjusting for the discount, the exchange rate, and inflation, the estimated property loss per victim in 2009 is $1,198 CAD. The final estimate of damaged or destroyed property is obtained by multiplying the number of instances by the cost per victim. The total economic impact of spousal violence-related property damage or theft in 2009 is estimated at $89,221,778. See Appendix B for detailed calculations and sources.

Value of damaged or destroyed property – SV against females $62,915,576
Value of damaged or destroyed property – SV against males $26,306,202
Total Other Personal Costs, Damaged or Destroyed Property $89,221,778

4.4.2 Divorce and Separation (legal costs)

In cases where couples are not eligible for legal aid for divorce and separation, the parties bear the full impact of the legal fees. As shown in the second section of the Civil Justice System, the total legal expenditures for the 16,013 initiated divorces that were caused by spousal violence were $81,987,747, where $12,761,670 was paid through legal aid. The remaining $69,226,077 was borne by victims through private legal fees.

As for separation, while legal aid costs can be estimated from the volume of separation cases processed in civil court (as shown in the Divorce and Separation section of the Civil Justice System), legal fees paid by victims for private lawyers are very difficult to estimate. This is because no statistics on the number of separations (married or common-law couples) are available as people do not need to report when they separate.

A 2008 internal study of the Department of Justice Canada finds that 85.8% of people (187 out of 218) seeking legal assistance for a relationship breakdown sought assistance from a private lawyer while only 14.2% (31 out of 218) received legal aid services.Footnote 44 Since the total number of respondents reporting a relationship breakdown problem in this survey was 269, it follows that 11.5% (31/269) of relationship breakdown cases were associated with legal aid services. While this data is from a recent year, the figure is derived from a small sample size. One national statistic is available, but from an earlier year. According to Statistics Canada, there were 71,528 divorces in Canada in 1996, and only 5,800 were funded by legal aid.Footnote 45 A ratio of these two numbers indicates that about 8.1% of people in divorce cases received legal aid in that year. Given the limitations of both data sources, it is decided to adjust the 2008 proportion of legal aid funded divorces (out of total divorces with legal assistance) accordingly to reflect a possible lower national rate of all divorces that were funded by legal aid. The adjusted rate is about 10%Footnote 46,representing the percentage of people who received legal aid out of all those seeking legal assistance for a relationship breakdown. Therefore, it is assumed that this 10% figure also applies to separations that were primarily caused by spousal violence.

As estimated in the Divorce and Separation section under Civil Justice System Costs, the legal aid expenditures spent on spousal violence-caused separations were about $10,814,975. Assuming equal costs of legal aid and private legal services, and using the 10% figure to represent the legal aid portion of all separation-related legal costs, it is estimated that the total legal assistance cost for separation was $108,149,750 where 90% ($97,334,775) was attributed to private legal assistance.

In sum, a total of $166,560,852 in legal assistance was borne by victims for divorce and separation, where $134,914,290 was borne by female victims and $31,646,562 was borne by male victims.

Legal costs for divorce and separation – SV against females $134,914,290
Legal costs for divorce and separation – SV against males $31,646,562
Total Other Personal Costs, Divorce and Separation $166,560,852

4.4.3 Special phone features

The 2009 GSS finds that 25,718 females and 3,751 males had been stalked or criminally harassed by either a current spouse or an ex-spouse in the 12 months prior to the survey. Victims may purchase special phone features such as call display, call screening, or caller identification as a reaction to criminal harassment and in an attempt to avoid the stalker.

The 2004 GSS asks victims who said they had been stalked if they activated special phone features because of the stalking. The proportion of all victims who answered yes to this question is applied to the number of spousal violence-related stalking victims from the 2009 GSS. This method results in estimates of 14,928 female victims and 2,117 male victims who activated special phone features in response to being stalked by a current or former spouse in 2009.

The 2004 GSS does not ask which specific special phone features the victim activated, so a general fee is determined from the costs of the most common phone features. Based on fees charged by Rogers Communications for call screening ($5 per month), call display ($8 per month), caller identification ($10 per month), and phone number change ($25 if not waived for repeated unwanted calls), an average fee of $10 for special phone features is used to ensure a conservative estimate. In the absence of data, it is assumed that victims paid for 12 months of special phone features. By multiplying the $10 fee for special phone features by the number of victims who activated features and the length of time the features were activated, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 through special phone features is estimated at $2,045,402.

Costs of special phone features – SV against females $1,791,358
Costs of special phone features – SV against males $254,044
Total Other Personal Costs, Special Phone Features $2,045,402

4.4.4 Moving expenses

Spousal violence victims may respond to stalking, assault, or sexual assault by physically relocatingfrom one home to another. The 2004 GSS asks respondents if they have moved in response to stalking, but neither the 2004 GSS nor the 2009 GSS asks if victims have moved in response to other violent incidents such as assault or sexual assault. Therefore, only victims who movedbecause of stalking are considered in this section, and only the moving expenses will be consideredin the cost estimate.Footnote 47 Women's shelters and other emergency accommodations that assist women who are fleeing violence and harassment are analysed in Section 5 under Third-Party Costs. Though not figuring into the costing exercise, it is noted that provincial governments have recognized the importance of providing legislative support for victims of spousal violence attempting to leave violent situations.Footnote 48

Applying the proportion of stalking victims who moved in the 2004 GSS to the number of spousal violence-related stalking victims in the 2009 GSS, it is estimated that there were 12,244 females and 1,190 males who moved in response to criminal harassment by a current spouse or an ex-spouse in 2009. Moving expenses depend on the time of year, the distance between locations, the size of the current home, and whether packing assistance is required. For a conservative estimate, it is assumed that all relocations are intra-city, all current dwellings are two-bedroom homes, and packing service is not required. According to the nationally active AMJ Campbell, a move with the preceding characteristics costs between $800 and $1,200 and an Ottawa-based moving company prices the same move at $1,125. Using these figures as a base, it is assumed that moving expenses were $1,000 per move in 2009. The moving expenses per move are multiplied by the estimated number of spousal violence victims forced to move. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on victims forced to move because of spousal violence is estimated at $13,434,253.

Moving expenses – SV against females $12,244,154
Moving expenses – SV against males $1,190,099
Total Other Personal Costs, Moving $13,434,253

4.5 Intangible Victim Costs

Intangible impacts that do not involve a monetary transaction and for which no market prices exist, are the most difficult impact to estimate. Pain and suffering affects a victim's physical and mental wellbeing. An early loss of life deprives the victim of years of productivity and joy. These two elements are subject to considerable uncertainty and controversy, but they are the largest victim impact brought about by spousal violence.

4.5.1 Pain and suffering

Previous studies, such as Turner, Finkelhor, and Ormrod (2006), show that exposure to violence can lead to depression, anger, and aggression, all of which serve to reduce a victim's enjoyment of life and can be categorized as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering are intangible impacts that have no market value. One method of quantifying pain and suffering, used in Access Economics (2004), is through Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) and Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs). The World Health Organization (WHO), in cooperation with the World Bank and Harvard University, introduced the concept of DALYs for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study that began in 1996. DALYs, as explained by the World Health Organization (2008), are essentially summations of the years of life lost due to premature death caused by a disease or injury and the years of healthy life lost due to a disease or injury. DALYs are measured on a scale of 0 to 1 and an increase on the scale correlates to an increase in the loss of health. For example, a broken ankle corresponding to a DALY of 0.20 implies that 20% of one year of healthy life is lost, while a broken leg corresponding to a DALY of 0.31 implies that 31% of one year of healthy life is lost.

There are two problems with DALYs that prevent their use in this report. First, they are not presented in monetary units, so the monetary values of each injury would have to be estimated by multiplying the DALY weight of each injury by the VSL per year. Second, any method involving DALYs requires detailed data on the numbers and types of injuries suffered by spousal violence victims and such information is not available for Canada.

Another method for estimating pain and suffering costs is to use the value court award. In Canada, civil courts award damages for both tangible costs and pain and suffering, the latter referred to as non-pecuniary damages, to plaintiffs in litigation cases involving claims of physical or emotional victimization; however, there is currently no comprehensive study of these cases to determine the average value of pain and suffering for each type of injury. Pain and suffering damages are awarded through a similar process in the US justice system, and Cohen (1988) does provide an analysis of US jury-awarded damages to determine average pain and suffering costs of certain violent crimes. In determining compensation for pain and suffering, the court evaluates how the injury has affected the victim's ability to function in daily life and how the injury has affected the victim's enjoyment of life. Cohen (1988) finds that, according to the courts, rape causes pain and suffering equivalent to $43,561 (1988 USD) and assault causes pain and suffering equivalent to $4,921 (1988 USD). These figures are adjusted for the exchange and inflation rates to 2009 CAD and the resulting figures of $86,800 and $9,800 are used as the values of pain and suffering for each sexual assault and assault case, respectively.

Civil lawsuits seeking damages for pain and suffering for spousal abuse in Canada are contentiousand costly, and hence, relatively rare. In a recent case wherein criminal charges had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the civil standard was met and the judge awarded the applicant $65,000 in pain and suffering damages.Footnote 49 In Canada, there are few cases, a huge range of amounts awarded, and no comprehensive study from which to draw an average cost of pain and suffering; as such, the US amounts are applied.

While victims who reported being forced into unwanted sexual activities are considered as experiencing pain and suffering equivalent to that of sexual assault victims, all other victims of spousal violence who did not report being forced into unwanted sexual activities are considered as experiencing pain and suffering equivalent to that of assault victims. Therefore, all spousal violence victims are considered as experiencing pain and suffering at least as great as that of physical assault victims.

According to the GSS, 179,893 females and 155,804 males reported spousal violence victimization, among which 6,376 female victims and 2,760 male victims had been forced into unwanted sexual activities. The value of pain and suffering from sexual assault is multiplied by the number of victims forced into unwanted sexual activity, and the value of pain and suffering from assault is multiplied by all victims who were not forced into unwanted sexual activity. Adding the two amounts, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on victims through pain and suffering is estimated at $3,987,949,720.

Pain and suffering – SV against females $2,251,037,864
Pain and suffering – SV against males $1,736,911,856
Total Intangible Victim Costs, Pain and Suffering $3,987,949,720

4.5.2 Loss of life

The value of a lost life is primarily comprised of intangible costs (loss of enjoyment, lost quality of life) and opportunity costs (loss of future income). Because of the intangible elements, the value of a lost life has no market price and therefore, the value of a statistical life (VSL) must be estimated. A common method used to estimate the VSL in economic literature is an analysis of the “willingness to pay” or “willingness to accept” approach. This approach is explored by Ludwig and Cook (2001) and Cohen et al. (2004). Willingness to pay captures the monetary amount that a person would be willing to pay for a reduced probability of death, while willingness to accept is simply the converse scenario of a person accepting monetary compensation for an increased probability of death. For example, if an individual is willing to pay $500 to eliminate a 0.01% risk of death, the implicit VSL for that person is $500/0.01% = $5 million. Data from the US labour market indicates that workers would be willing to accept an annual wage premium of $700 to face a 0.01% risk of death, which implies a VSL of $700/0.01% = $7 million (Viscusi 2008). This latter example is an illustration of the theory of compensating differentials which proposes that workers should receive additional pay to face addition risk when all other aspects of a job are held constant. This analysis of wage-risk tradeoffs is the dominant approach in the economic literature.Footnote 50

A major complication of VSL analysis is that the value of life is not constant across the population or across time. One person's valuation of life may differ from another's, and an individual's valuation of life may change as his or her economic situation and age change. This heterogeneity of the VSL has become a prominent issue in the literature, and to address it, researchers have examined the relationship between the VSL and variables such as age, income, citizenship status, and the nature of the relevant risk exposure. Table 4.3 below presents a selection of estimates of the VSL from the literature.

The results of the following studies may remove confidence in the method of using one standard VSL: Aldy and Viscusi (2008) and Kniesner et al. (2006) find an inverted-U-shaped relationship between the VSL and age; the VSL increases with personal income due to the positive income elasticity of life and health; Viscusi (2009) illustrates the effect that the nature of the risk has on theVSL by estimating that deaths resulting from natural disasters are valued at just over one half the value of deaths caused by terrorist incidents. However, Kniesner et al. (2006) find that proper application of the U-shaped trajectory of the VSL over the life cycle would yield results not significantly different from estimates obtained without any age adjustment. This finding, along with the difficulty of accounting for heterogeneity, has encouraged the US and other countries to adopt the use of uniform VSL estimates to monetize the benefits of risk regulations and other policies as standard practice (Viscusi 2010).

There is no standard method used to calculate the VSL and each study may include different variables, account for different factors, and focus on different populations, which together partly explains the wide disparity in estimates. The Canadian government has stipulated the guidelines for the use of VSLs in research.Footnote 51 Being aware of the limitations of this approach, a VSL figure from a recent US study (Viscusi 2008) is used instead. Viscusi (2008) finds a VSL figure of $7 million 2008 USD, which is equivalent to $7.55 million 2009 CAD and is higher than the $6.1 million 2009 CAD obtained by the Treasury Board method.

Table 4.3: Selected Studies on Value of Statistical Life ( VSL )
Author(s) Year Country VSL $million (2008 USD)
Miller 1990 USA 4.0
Kniesner and Leeth 1991 Australia 5.3
Viscusi 1993 USA 4.9-11.5
Miller, Cohen, and Wiersema 1996 USA 4.0
Siebert and Wei 1998 Hong Kong 2.1
Meng and Smith 1999 Canada 2.9
Arabsheibani and Marin 2000 UK 38.4
Shanmugam 2001 India 1.3-1.8
Smith 2000 USA 2.9-6.1
Viscusi 2000 USA 4.0-11.9
Gunderson and Hyatt 2001 Canada 5.1-23.1
Leeth and Ruser 2003 USA 3.4
Viscusi 2004 USA 6.4
Aldy and Viscusi 2008 USA 4.3-9.5
Viscusi 2008 USA 5.0-12.5

The number of suicides motivated by spousal violence is estimated in the Mental Health Issues section on Suicide Attempts. The number of suicides is added to the number of homicides involving spousal relationships ascertained from Statistics Canada's Homicide Survey. The resulting total number of deaths caused by spousal violence is then multiplied by the VSL.

As previously estimated in the Mental Health Issues section on Suicide Attempts, there were 82 and 40 suicides committed by female and male victims, respectively. According to Statistics Canada's Homicide Survey, 49 women, 15 men, and one victim of unknown gender were killed by a current or former spouse in 2009.Footnote 52 In addition to homicide, 6 females and 2 males died due to other Criminal Code violations causing death such as criminal negligence causing death. Adding all of the deaths attributable to spousal violence gives a total of 137 females, 57 males, and 1 victim of unknown gender who lost their lives as a result of spousal violence.

Multiplying the number of lives lost due to spousal violence by the VSL, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 through the loss of life is estimated at $1,472,250,000. See Appendix B: Victim CostsB.5 Intangible CostsB.5.2 Loss of life for detailed calculations and sources.

Value of lost lives – SV against females $1,039,681,701
Value of lost lives – SV against males $432,568,299
Total Intangible Victim Costs, Loss of Life $1,472,250,000
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