Alcohol, Behavioral Norms and Sexual Violence on U.S. College Campuses
Title: Alcohol, Behavioral Norms and Sexual Violence on U.S. College Campuses" (joint with Julia Hoefer)
Abstract: This paper explores the role of social norms in influencing the incidence of sexual assault, and the contribution of alcohol to such events. We build a decision theoretic model where agents may choose to use alcohol as a "disinhibitor" to undermine social norms discouraging consensual sexual encounters outside marriage. This has the side-effect of making non-consensual encounters more likely. By making the resort to alcohol more attractive, stronger norms against consensual sex may increase the overall incidence of non-consensual sex. We test this theory on data from US college campuses: colleges located in counties without Planned Parenthood clinics have more incidents of rape and sexual assault in which alcohol is implicated, but not more incidents without alcohol. Religiously affiliated campuses, especially Catholic ones, also have higher rates, as do colleges that are members of the national athletic association. We explore rival explanations such as reporting and selection biases. Estimates on a restricted sub-sample for which attitudinal data are available show a significant association of assault with the proportion of students expressing strong disapproval of consensual pre-marital sex. Restrictions on availability of alcohol help reduce the frequency of such incidents.
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