College Football, Parties and Rape

Reports of rapes of college-age women in localities of big-time teams go up significantly on game days, national study finds.

January 4, 2016
 

On the days that big-time college football teams play, the campus and local police departments of institutions playing see a notable increase in reports of rapes of college-age women, a new national study has found.

The study, released in December by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here), analyzed data reported by campus and local agencies to the National Incident Based Reporting System, through which the U.S. Justice Department collects and analyzes crime reports. The data are detailed enough that the researchers were able to compare patterns by days of the week so that the football game days were compared to comparable days without games.

The analysis found a 28 percent increase in rape reports by college-age women (defined as 17-24 years old) on days on which Division I-A football teams played. The increase was greater on days of home games (up 41 percent) than away games (15 percent). (The study uses the term "Division I-A," which has since been replaced by the category Football Bowl Subdivision.)

These figures would translate into an additional 253 to 770 rapes of college-age women each year across the 128 colleges and universities in the top division of college football, the study says.

Rape reports also appear to be higher on the days of games of particular prominence, based on the standings or rivalries, the study found.

At Division I-AA colleges, there was a measurable but lesser impact on football home game days, with rape reports up 31 percent, but with no impact found on the days of away games. The study found no increases in rape reports associated with Division II or Division III games.

The theory of the researchers is that various partying behaviors (especially significant increases in drinking) take place on football game days. And the authors note that past research has found heightened reports and arrests of students and others in college localities for behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated, reflecting this heightened partying.

The study was conducted by Jason M. Lindo, associate professor of economics at Texas A&M University; Isaac D. Swensen, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University; and Peter M. Siminski, associate professor of economics at the University of Wollongong, in Australia.

"We view these results as contributing to a more complete understanding of the nonpecuniary costs associated with college football," the authors write in their conclusion. "Moreover, by documenting how specific contexts modify the effects of football games on the incidence of rape … our results can inform awareness and prevention efforts. That being said, we recognize that college football games are but one component of a college culture that contributes to excessive partying. Therefore, these results can be viewed as highlighting the potentially large effects on rape that can result from various policies and activities that alter the social context."

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