The Effects of Social Movements: Evidence from #MeToo
67 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2019 Last revised: 23 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 22, 2020
Social movements are associated with large societal changes, but evidence on their causal effects is limited. We study the effect of the MeToo movement on a high-stakes decision—reporting a sexual crime to the police. We construct a new dataset of sexual and non-sexual crimes reported in 30 OECD countries, covering 88% of the OECD population. We analyze the effect of the MeToo movement by employing a triple-difference strategy over time, across countries, and between crime types. The movement increased reporting of sexual crimes by 10% during its first six months. The effect is persistent and lasts at least 15 months. Because we find a strong effect on reporting before any major changes to laws or policy took place, we attribute the effect to a change in social norms or information. Using more detailed US data, we show that the movement also increased arrests for sexual crimes in the long run. In contrast to a common criticism of the movement, we do not find evidence for large differences in the effect across racial and socioeconomic groups. Our results suggest that social movements can rapidly change high-stakes personal decisions.
Keywords: Social movements, Social norms, Sexual crime, Crime reporting, #MeToo
JEL Classification: D7, J16, K14 ,K42
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