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The silent cost of school shootings

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School shootings are a horrific American phenomenon. And the tragedies aren’t limited to the shootings themselves. SIEPR’s Maya Rossin-Slater — in collaboration with fellow economists Molly Schnell and Hannes Schwandt — finds that fatal shootings have a lingering impact on the mental health of those who were at school when they happen. Their research adds an important dimension to the discussion around ensuring the long-term health and safety of the country’s schoolchildren.

"It was a natural question: What are the effects on the children who survive?"

Driven to better understand the lasting impact of fatal school shootings, SIEPR Faculty Fellow Maya Rossin-Slater collaborates with visiting scholars Molly Schnell and Hannes Schwandt to comb through data that reveal startling trends in the mental health of children who witnessed the tragedies.


“You explore the darkness. It’s a constant exploration and a constant back and forth.”

They found the right datasets, asked new questions and analyzed the numbers. And the findings by Rossin-Slater, Schnell and Schwandt immediately transcend academia and give policymakers a stark fact to consider: Fatal school shootings continue to hurt a community years after they occur.

“This isn’t a topic that people would originally think of as `oh, this is economics.’”

Understanding the impact of school shootings might be the obvious realm of psychologists, criminal justice scholars and public safety experts. But the tools of economics allow Rossin-Slater, Schnell and Schwandt to disentangle causal effects from observational data and present clear evidence meant to prompt policies for improving the nation’s health and safety.