Does College Partying Increase the Number of Rapes?

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According to a new study,

There are several mechanisms through which partying may increase the incidence of rape among college students. The most obvious relate to alcohol consumption, which has direct pharmacological effects on aggression and cognitive functioning. Moreover, consistent with Becker’s (1968) seminal model of crime, potential perpetrators may believe that the probability of being punished (and the degree of punishment) will be lower if they and/or their victims are inebriated. That said, partying may also increase the incidence of rape by increasing social contact and by altering the context in which social contact takes place. These potential pathways are supported by statistics indicating that over a half of incapacitated rapes and a quarter of forcible rapes take place at parties (Krebs et al. 2009) and statistics indicating that two-thirds of student rape victims are intoxicated or impaired by drugs at the time of the incident (Kilpatrick et al. 2007). Moreover, 77 percent of students agree that reducing drinking would be very effective, or somewhat effective, in preventing sexual assault on their campus (Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation 2015) (pg. 236).

So how do the researchers determine if there is an empirical link? By focusing on

the effects of football games–which intensify partying among college students–on the incidence of rape at schools with Division 1 programs. Specifically, we use panel data from the National Incident Based Reporting System to estimate the increases in reports of rape caused by football games using an identification strategy that exploits plausibly random variation in the timing of game days. Intuitively, we identify the effects by comparing reports of rape to law enforcement agencies serving students on game days to reports on nongame days, while controlling for differences expected across different days of the week and across different times of the year. This approach is similar to that of Rees and Schnepel (2009), who analyze the effects of college football games on assault, vandalism, disorderly conduct, and alcohol-related crimes. We find significant and robust evidence that football game days increase reports of rape victimization among 17–24-year-old women by 28 percent. Home games increase reports by 41 percent on the day of the game and away games increase reports by 15 percent. These effects are greater for schools playing in the more prominent subdivision of Division 1 and for relatively prominent games. There is no evidence that these effects are offset by reductions in nearby areas, on adjacent days, or during other times of the fall term. Moreover, the effects are driven largely by 17–24-year-old offenders and by offenders unknown to the victim, though we also find significant effects on incidents involving offenders of other ages and on incidents involving offenders known to the victim. Estimates by race indicate that the main results are not driven solely by white victims or black victims, nor by white offenders or black offenders.

Back of the envelope calculations based on our estimates imply that the effects of Division 1A football games explain 5 percent of fall semester (September through December) reports of rape involving 17–24-year-old victims to law enforcement agencies serving students attending these schools. Moreover, they imply that these games cause 724 additional rapes per year across the 128 schools participating in Division 1A. Based on an estimated social cost of $267,000 per rape (McCollister, French, and Fang 2010), this implies an annual social cost of rapes caused by Division 1A games of $193 million. The estimated effects for schools participating in Division 1AA are smaller, suggesting 108 additional rapes per year across 125 schools (pg. 237).

They also find evidence for “that the effects are larger-than-average for schools that have reputations as “party schools.” Finally, an analysis of the timing of the impacts reveals significant effects on reports of rape the night before, during, and after home games whereas effects are only apparent after away games. This evidence is consistent with there being an effect of pregame partying, which we would expect to be much more common for home than away games” (pg. 238).

A case where empirical evidence backs intuition.