In the study led by Steven D. Levitt of the University of Chicago and Joseph J. Doyle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the research team analysed three large representative samples of crashes reported to the police, as well as linked hospital data, among motor vehicle passengers aged 2-6 years of age.
The researchers then compared the seat belt-related data with the child safety seats in preventing injury.
The study showed that lap-and-shoulder seat belts performed as well as child safety seats in preventing serious injuries in kids.
Safety seats were associated with a statistically significant 25 percent reduction in less serious injuries.
"Our comparisons across restraint types incorporate the way they are used, or misused, in practice," the authors said.
"Because many child safety seats are, in actual use, improperly installed, our estimates are likely to understate the benefits associated with their proper use.
"From a public policy perspective, however, understanding how safety devices work in practice, as opposed to under ideal circumstances, is of great importance," they added.
This study is published in Economic Inquiry.