Offender or Guardian? An Empirical Analysis of Ride-Sharing and Sexual Assault
43 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2017 Last revised: 30 Mar 2018
Date Written: April 10, 2017
Sexual assault is the most repellant and costliest crime that inflicts irrecoverable harms to victims. This study examines the effect of IT-enabled ride-sharing platforms on sexual assaults. Drawing upon routine activity theory from the criminology literature, we posit that a ride-sharing platform can serve as a capable guardian that deters sexual assaults by reducing a passenger’s risk of being a suitable target. Using comprehensive data from New York City, we investigate the relationship between Uber transactions and rape incidents in 2015. For our identification strategy, we adopt subway service suspension and local air pollution as instruments. Our findings show that the number of Uber pickups is negatively associated with the likelihood of rape occurrences. While this deterrent impact is found to be insignificant in taxi-dense areas (Manhattan), ride-sharing contributes to a more significant reduction in rape in taxi-sparse areas (the outer boroughs). In addition, the deterrent effect of ride-sharing is stronger in neighborhoods with lower incomes and a higher percentage of non-White population. This study sheds new light on the potential of IT-enabled platforms to improve social well-being beyond its economic contributions.
Keywords: Uber, Ride-Sharing, Sharing Economy, Sexual Assault, Criminology, Routine Activity Theory, Societal Impacts of IS
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