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Does Movie Violence Increase Violent Crime?

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  • Gordon Dahl
  • Stefano DellaVigna

Abstract

Laboratory experiments in psychology find that media violence increases aggression in the short run. We analyze whether media violence affects violent crime in the field. We exploit variation in the violence of blockbuster movies from 1995 to 2004, and study the effect on same-day assaults. We find that violent crime decreases on days with larger theater audiences for violent movies. The effect is partly due to voluntary incapacitation: between 6 P.M. and 12 A.M., a one million increase in the audience for violent movies reduces violent crime by 1.1% to 1.3%. After exposure to the movie, between 12 A.M. and 6 A.M., violent crime is reduced by an even larger percent. This finding is explained by the self-selection of violent individuals into violent movie attendance, leading to a substitution away from more volatile activities. In particular, movie attendance appears to reduce alcohol consumption. The results emphasize that media exposure affects behavior not only via content, but also because it changes time spent in alternative activities. The substitution away from more dangerous activities in the field can explain the differences with the laboratory findings. Our estimates suggest that in the short run, violent movies deter almost 1,000 assaults on an average weekend. Although our design does not allow us to estimate long-run effects, we find no evidence of medium-run effects up to three weeks after initial exposure. (c) 2009 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 122247000000001778.

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Date of creation: 13 Dec 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:122247000000001778

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  1. Christopher Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin, 2010. "Alcohol Regulation and Crime," NBER Chapters, in: Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, pages 291-329 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Besley, Timothy J. & Burgess, Robin, 2001. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 2721, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Enrico Moretti, 2008. "Social Learning and Peer Effects in Consumption: Evidence from Movie Sales," NBER Working Papers 13832, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2008. "Preschool Television Viewing and Adolescent Test Scores: Historical Evidence from the Coleman Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 123(1), pages 279-323, 02.
  5. Stefano DellaVigna & Ethan Kaplan, 2007. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1187-1234, 08.
  6. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2003. "Are Idle Hands the Devil's Workshop? Incapacitation, Concentration and Juvenile Crime," NBER Working Papers 9653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Levitt, Steven D, 1996. "The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence from Prison Overcrowding Litigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 319-51, May.
  8. Kessler, Daniel P & Levitt, Steven D, 1999. "Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 343-63, April.
  9. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  10. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
  11. Edward Lazear & Ulrike Malmendier & Roberto Weber, 2006. "Sorting, Prices, and Social Preferences," NBER Working Papers 12041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221, February.
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