Do Statutory Rape Laws Work?
Cleveland State University
March 1, 2009
CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper
Every state in the United States has laws which prohibit sexual activity with individuals under a certain age. These laws are typically strict liability. Generally, they are justifed under the auspice of protecting young women from 'predatory' older males. However, nobody has examined the effectiveness of these laws. Using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys (NLSY), and exploiting the differences in the laws among states and over time, we examine whether the laws restricting the number of legal sexual partners delays the sexual debut of both males and females. We find that the laws are successful in accomplishing these goals. Overall, an additional 1 year of potential partners leads to about a 10% increase in the probability of sexual debut at any age.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: Statutory rape, criminal law, sexual debut
JEL Classification: K14, K42
Date posted: August 3, 2009