Does football cause domestic violence?
Does professional football cause domestic violence? Not exactly, although Thanksgiving does (see below.) But it turns out that losses in professional football games -- specifically, when the home team suffers an unexpected upset, based on the pre-game point spread -- lead to an 8 percent spike in the number of police reports of spousal abuse within a short time of the game.
The more important the game -- against a main rival, or for a playoff spot -- the bigger the spike. And in especially frustrating games, those with a large number of sacks, turnovers and penalties, the effect of an unexpected upset on an increase in domestic violence was 15 percent. Unexpected wins, on the other hand, were not associated with a reduction in domestic violence reports. And, if you had any question, the increased violence was entirely male-on-female, according to the newly released National Bureau of Economics working paper by David Card and Gordon Dahl.
Don’t get too upset with football, though. The increased violence was comparable to that of a hot day (over 80 degrees) but far smaller than the spike associated with major holidays such as Thanksgiving (up 22 percent) or the Fourth of July (up 28 percent.)
As to the meaning of it all, Card and Dahl suggest that the research “provides compelling evidence that at least some portion of family violence arises through a breakdown of control, rather than as instrumental behavior driven by purely rational choice.” In other words, to some extent these men are losing it -- in econo-speak, "a loss-of-control paradigm" -- not making a conscious decision to employ violence to deal with their wives and girlfriends. Of course, only economists, bless their pointy heads, could talk about domestic violence in the language of rational choice.
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