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College football games increase rape at schools, study says

by Matt Phillips
Jul 17 2017, 7:37am

Game days at big college football schools cause an increase in reports of rape, according to a paper from the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

The study cross-referenced college game schedules at 96 Division I football schools with reports of rape, collected as part of broad FBI statistics. After analyzing that data, the authors estimate that games at just the schools in Division 1A, the most elite level of college football, resulted in more than 700 additional rapes each year.

“We hypothesize that college football games increase rapes primarily because of their role in campus social life, specifically the college party culture,” wrote the authors of the paper, economists from Texas A&M University, Montana State University, and the University of Wollongong in Australia.

After creating a database that included more than 40,000 Saturdays without football games and more than 17,000 game days, the authors compared the number of reports of rape during weeks without football games to weeks with football games. The results were stark.

The authors found “significant and robust evidence” that football game days raised the number of reports of rape by 28 percent for women between the ages of 17 and 24. The uptick was even greater for home games, which increased reports of rape by 41 percent. Away games resulted in an increase of 15 percent.

The findings of the paper are consistent with other analyses, such as a 2009 paper that found college football games led to an increase in assaults and vandalism.

Predictably, alcohol consumption plays a role in the uptick in rape reports on game days. Some 20 percent of the reports involving college-age individuals specify that the perpetrators were under the influence of alcohol. The paper, however, suggests that percentage likely underestimates alcohol involvement in these incidents. (Separate survey data often indicates alcohol involvement in the majority of cases.) Likewise, the authors note that their data only capture reports of rape and likely understates the actual number of rapes. One large-scale study found that only 12 percent of college women who are raped report it to law enforcement.

Using that figure on unde-reporting, the authors of the paper estimate that activities surrounding college football at the 128 top football schools — defined as schools in Division 1A — result in 724 additional rapes per year.

The findings of the paper suggest a range of potential responses from universities, said

Isaac Swensen, an assistant professor of economics at Montana State University, and a co-author of the study. Colleges should consider efforts to tamp down on big spikes in partying associated with big games, as well as investing in bystander prevention training for students.

“One could think that, if universities were inclined, that some of the football revenues could be set aside for sexual assault prevention and treatment to offset some of the negative effects that we document in this work,” Swensen said.