College football game days have long been associated with an increase in drinking and partying on campus, but new research shows they’re also linked to more reports of sexual assault.
A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, based in Cambridge, found football game days at colleges that play in Division 1 increased reported rapes among 17–24 year old women by 28 percent.
To conduct the study, Jason Lindo, an economics professor at Texas A&M University, and his colleagues analyzed 22 years worth of FBI data from the National Incident Based Reporting System to determine if there was a link between events that intensify partying and sexual assault on campus. One such event is a college football game, which usually involves boozy tailgates and raucous after-parties.
They compared reports of rape at Division 1 schools on game days to reports on non-game days. They also controlled for differences in reports expected on weekdays, as well as the various times of the year.
They found a link between the party-heavy football game days and the number of reported rapes. At the 128 Division 1A schools included in the study, including Boston College and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, home games increased reports by 41 percent on the day of the game, and away games increased reports by 15 percent.
Representatives from the UMass-Amherst said they had no comment because there was no data for them to analyze. Represenatives from the Boston College police department did not immediately return a request for comment about the study. UMass, it’s worth noting, only joined Division 1A four years ago, while the data from the study looks at 22 years worth of incident reports. Since joining Division 1A, UMass has also played most of its home games off-campus at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
After underdog teams unexpectedly beat higher-ranked opponents, reported rapes surged an average of 57 percent. Overall, the researchers found football games are associated with 253 to 770 additional rapes per year across the 128 schools in Division 1A. The authors said this large range depends “on the degree to which one attributes the larger effect of home games to heightened partying or to changes in the number of potential victims and/or perpetrators in town or policing efforts.’’
The researchers said they believe the increase in rapes is “driven largely by 17-24 year old offenders and by offenders unknown to the victim.’’ Whereas many of the survivors in the study told authorities they were assaulted by someone they didn’t know, most rape victims report knowing their attackers.
They also noted that, while domestic violence incidents rise after upset losses in professional football, upset wins in college football increase the incidents of rape on campuses. Upset wins also increased arrests for drunkenness, DUIs, and liquor law violations, while upset losses didn’t appear to have such effects.
The data also showed an increase in crimes other than assaults on home game days, with arrests for disorderly conduct increasing 54 percent, 20 percent for DUIs, and 87 percent for public intoxication.
In releasing the study, the authors said they hoped it would help universities develop more effective information campaigns aimed at preventing rape. They also hoped that highlighting a non-monetary cost associated with big-time sports could contribute to more comprehensive cost-benefit analyses about investments in these programs.
To further solidify their point, they put a price tag on the increase in rapes. They used a figure from a 2010 study on the economic losses associated with crimes—both tangible and intangible—which determined that each rape has a social cost of $267,000.
“This implies an annual social cost of rapes caused by Division 1A games between $68 million and $205 million,’’ they wrote.