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Does the certainty of arrest reduce domestic violence? Evidence from mandatory and recommended arrest laws


  • Iyengar, Radha


Domestic violence remains a major public policy concern despite two decades of policy intervention. To eliminate police inaction in response to domestic violence, many states have passed mandatory arrest laws, which require the police to arrest abusers when a domestic violence incident is reported. Using the FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, I find that mandatory arrest laws actually increased intimate partner homicides. I discuss two potential mechanisms for this increase in homicides: decreased reporting by victims and increased reprisal by abusers. I investigate validity of these hypotheses by examining the effect of mandatory arrest laws on different sub-groups and by analyzing family homicides where the victim is less often responsible for reporting. There appears to be consistent evidence for the reporting mechanisms. For family homicides, mandatory arrest laws appear to reduce the number of homicides. This study therefore provides evidence that these laws may have perverse effects on intimate partner violence, harming the very people they seek to help.

Suggested Citation

  • Iyengar, Radha, 2009. "Does the certainty of arrest reduce domestic violence? Evidence from mandatory and recommended arrest laws," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 85-98, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:93:y:2009:i:1-2:p:85-98

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Amy Farmer & Jill Tiefenthaler, 2003. "Explaining the Recent Decline in Domestic Violence," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 21(2), pages 158-172, April.
    2. Tauchen, Helen & Witte, Ann Dryden, 1995. "The Dynamics of Domestic Violence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 414-418, May.
    3. Fisher, Franklin M, 1970. "Tests of Equality Between Sets of Coefficients in Two Linear Regressions: An Expository Note," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 38(2), pages 361-366, March.
    4. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(1), pages 267-288.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Card & Gordon B. Dahl, 2011. "Family Violence and Football: The Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Violent Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 103-143.
    2. Sekhri, Sheetal & Storeygard, Adam, 2014. "Dowry deaths: Response to weather variability in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 212-223.
    3. Kabir Dasgupta & Gail Pacheco, 2016. "Warrantless arrest laws for domestic violence: How are youth affected?," Working Papers 2016-07 JEL classificatio, Auckland University of Technology, Department of Economics.
    4. Amalia R. Miller & Carmit Segal, 2014. "Do female officers improve law enforcement quality? Effects on crime reporting and domestic violence escalation," UBSCENTER - Working Papers 009, UBS International Center of Economics in Society - Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    5. Sheetal Sekhri & Adam Storeygard, 2013. "Dowry Deaths: Consumption Smoothing in Response to Climate Variability in India," Virginia Economics Online Papers 407, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
    6. Sofia Amaral, 2015. "Do Improved Property Rights Decrease Violence Against Women in India?," Discussion Papers 15-10, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    7. Ana Tur-Prats, 2017. "Unemployment and intimate-partner violence: A gender-identity approach," Economics Working Papers 1564, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    8. Anderberg, Dan & Rainer, Helmut & Wadsworth, Jonathan & Wilson, Tanya, 2013. "Unemployment and domestic violence: theory and evidence," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51572, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Kausik Chaudhuri & Payel Chowdhury & Subal Kumbhakar, 2015. "Crime in India: specification and estimation of violent crime index," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 13-28, February.
    10. Kabir Dasgupta, 2016. "Youth Response to State Cyberbullying Laws," Working Papers 2016-05 JEL Classificatio, Auckland University of Technology, Department of Economics.
    11. Braakmann, Nils, 2013. "Deterrence and age thresholds in punishment in British criminal law," MPRA Paper 44886, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Frank Sloan & Alyssa Platt & Lindsey Chepke & Claire Blevins, 2013. "Deterring domestic violence: Do criminal sanctions reduce repeat offenses?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 46(1), pages 51-80, February.
    13. Banerjee, Swapnendu, 2018. "‘Women on top’ and/or ‘economic progress’: What affects actual and reported crime against women? An analysis of socio-economic factors in India," MPRA Paper 84428, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Averett, Susan L. & Wang, Yang, 2014. "Identifying the Causal Effect of Alcohol Abuse on the Perpetration of Intimate Partner Violence by Men Using a Natural Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 7996, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. Lakshmi Iyer & Anandi Mani & Prachi Mishra & Petia Topalova, 2012. "The Power of Political Voice: Women's Political Representation and Crime in India," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 165-193, October.
    16. Ana Tur-Prats, 2017. "Unemployment and intimate-partner violence: A gender-identity approach," Working Papers 963, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    17. Anna Aizer, 2011. "Poverty, Violence, and Health: The Impact of Domestic Violence During Pregnancy on Newborn Health," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(3), pages 518-538.


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