In the next 7 minutes, a child in the U.S. will be bullied. It may be the son or daughter of someone you know. It may even be your own child. Meanwhile, only four in 100 adults will intervene. And only 11 percent of the child’s peers might do the same. The rest — 85 percent — will do nothing.
According to the CDC’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 19% of students in grades 9-12 said they were bullied on school property in the previous 12 months. 14.9% of students surveyed said they were cyberbullied. Bullying takes many forms, and technological advances have opened new ways for bullies to hide behind anonymity.
Besides the physical, emotional and psychological tolls it takes on victims, bullying produces adverse socioeconomic outcomes. The Association for Psychological Science found that those who are bullies, victims or both are more likely to experience poverty, academic failure and job termination in their adulthood than those who were neither. In addition, the affected individuals are more likely to commit crime and to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Even our schools take a financial hit from bullying. Research shows that schools stand to lose millions of dollars in attendance-based funding due to students staying home to avoid bullying.
In light of the return to in-person schooling this fall, WalletHub measured the prevalence and prevention of bullying in 47 states and the District of Columbia to help bring awareness to its harmful effects not only to America’s young people but also to society as a whole. We examined each state based on 20 key metrics, ranging from “bullying-incident rate” to “truancy costs for schools” to “share of high school students bullied online.”
States with the Biggest Bullying Problems
Bullying Impact & Treatment
|34||District of Columbia||37.82||17||45||32|
Note: *No. 1 = Biggest Bullying Problems
With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the worst conditions for that metric category.
**Unfortunately, due to data limitations, the following states were excluded from our analysis: Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington.
Bullying can result in many negative consequences not only for the victim but also for the bullies themselves, their parents, their schools and society as a whole. In order to understand the causes of bullying and identify ways to prevent it, we asked the following key questions to several experts with extensive knowledge of bullying. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses.
- What are the main factors that put a child at risk of being bullied?
- What are the main factors that contribute to a child becoming a bully?
- How can parents protect their children against cyberbullying in our socially connected society?
- In evaluating the best and worst states in addressing bullying incidents, what are the top 5 indicators?
- What kinds of programs should state and local governments develop in order to prevent bullying?
- Should schools or parents face any liability when their children bully others?
Ask the Experts
In order to identify the states with the biggest bullying problems, WalletHub compared the 47 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Bullying Prevalence, 2) Bullying Impact & Treatment and 3) Anti-Bullying Laws.
We evaluated these categories using 20 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing the highest prevalence of bullying.
We then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Please note that Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington were excluded from our analysis due to data limitations.
For the “Cost of Truancy” measure, we assumed a single day of truancy per school year due to bullying and used the following formula:
Cost of Truancy for Schools as a Result of Bullying = 8%*ADA*(Spending per Pupil/180)
- 8 Percent: Rate of middle school students who reported skipping school at least once due to fear of being bullied
- ADA: Average Daily Attendance
- Spending per Pupil/180: Financing per school day, per pupil
Bullying Prevalence - Total Points: 50
Bullying-Incidents Rate: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of high school students who were bullied on school property.
Cyberbullying-Incidents Rate: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of high school students who were bullied online.
Physical-Violence Rate: Double Weight (~25.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of high school students involved in a physical fight on school property.
Bullying Impact & Treatment - Total Points: 25
- Share of High School Students Who Missed School for Fear of Being Bullied: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
- Share of High School Students Who Experienced Feeling Sad or Hopeless: Half Weight (~1.56 Points)
- Share of High School Students Who Attempted Suicide: Half Weight (~1.56 Points)
- Psychologists per Capita: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
- Student-to-Counselor Ratio: Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
- Child or Adolescent Therapists per Capita (per Residents <18 Years Old): Full Weight (~3.13 Points)
- Cost of Truancy for Schools Due to Bullying: Triple Weight (~9.38 Points)
Anti-Bullying Laws - Total Points: 25
- State Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- State Anti-Bullying Laws Including “Cyberbullying” or “Electronic Harassment”: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- State Anti-Cyberbullying Laws Including “Criminal Sanction”: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- State Anti-Cyberbullying Laws Including “School Sanction”: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- State Anti-Cyberbullying Laws Requiring School Policy: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- State Anti-Cyberbullying Laws Including “Off-Campus Behaviors”: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Share of Secondary Schools that Engage in Practices Related to LGBTQ Youth: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Presence of Adopted and Enacted Laws Regulating Mandatory School Resource Officers: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This binary metric measures whether or not a state has adopted and enacted laws regulating the mandatory nature of school resource officers.
- Share of Secondary Schools with Practices in Place to Prevent Bullying and Sexual Harassment: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This metric refers to 4 categories of preventive practices:
- All school staff received professional development on preventing, identifying, and responding to student bullying and sexual harassment;
- Has a designated staff member to whom students can confidentially report student bullying and sexual harassment;
- Uses electronic, paper, or oral communication to publicize and disseminate policies, rules, or regulations on bullying and sexual harassment;
- Provide parents and families with health information on preventing student bullying and sexual harassment.
- Presence of CDC’s National Centers of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: This binary metric measures whether or not a Youth Violence Prevention Center is present in the state.
Sources: Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bureau of Labor Statistics, StopBullying.gov, National Education Association, National Center for Education Statistics, National Conference of State Legislatures, Cyberbullying Research Center and Psychology Today.