Alcohol and Rape: An Economics-of-Crime Perspective
56 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2007
Date Written: February 2007
Using a panel of state-level data over the years 1982-2000, this study explores the potential relationship between alcohol policy, alcohol consumption, and rape by considering a number of theoretical and methodological issues. First, the potential relationship is examined in the context of an economics-of-crime model, controlling for various deterrence and opportunity cost variables. Second, unlike most studies, consumption of liquor and wine are considered as well as consumption of beer. A third focus is on the potential endogeneity of alcohol consumption. A fourth consideration dictates the focus on rape rates rather than other violent crime rates. Several studies have discovered a tendency for relatively high alcohol consumption by both offenders and victims. Since rape victims are virtually all female, and at least some alcohol policy variables appear to have differential impacts on females and heavy-drinking males, an examination of policy impacts for rape rates, unlike other types of violent crime, can suggest the nature of the alcohol-consumption-violence relationship. The empirical results support an "alcohol increases potential victims vulnerability" hypothesis. In the context of the economic theory of crime, this lowers the expected cost of rape to potential offenders and raises rape rates. Tests for endogeneity of alcohol consumption and resulting simultaneous equation estimates reinforce this implication because they suggest that victims respond to relatively high rape rates by reducing alcohol consumption.
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