The Effects of Social Movements: Evidence from #MeToo
64 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2019 Last revised: 17 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 15, 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 personal decision—reporting a sexual crime to the police. We construct a new dataset of sexual and non-sexual crimes in 30 OECD countries, covering 88 percent 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 13 percent during its first six months. The effect is persistent and lasts at least 15 months. We attribute the effect to a change in social norms because we find a strong effect on reporting before any major changes to laws or policy took place. 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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