41 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2011 Last revised: 5 Feb 2013
Date Written: April 7, 2011
Video games are an increasingly popular leisure activity. As many of best-selling games contain hyper-realistic violence, many researchers and policymakers have concluded that violent games cause violent behaviors. Evidence on a causal effect of violent games on violence is usually based on laboratory experiments finding violent games increase aggression. Before drawing policy conclusions about the effect of violent games on actual behavior, these experimental studies should be subjected to tests of external validity. Our study uses a quasi-experimental methodology to identify the short and medium run effects of violent game sales on violent crime using time variation in retail unit sales data of the top 50 selling video games and violent criminal offenses from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for each week of 2005 to 2008. We instrument for game sales with game characteristics, game quality and time on the market, and estimate that, while a one percent increase in violent games is associated with up to a 0.03% decrease in violent crime, non-violent games appear to have no effect on crime rates.
Keywords: Video Games, Violence, Crime
JEL Classification: D08, K14, L86
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Cunningham, Scott and Engelstätter, Benjamin and Ward, Michael R., Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime (April 7, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1804959 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1804959