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When Football Violence Turns Real

It’s well-established that domestic violence is bad for the children directly exposed to it (and possibly their classmates as well) but experts still debate the drivers of family violence. Economists have traditionally characterized violence as a signal to outside parties or as part of an incentive contract between family members. Others believe that violent episodes occur when the perpetrator loses control. A new paper by David Card and Gordon Dahl tests the latter explanation using data on domestic violence occurring on Sundays during the NFL season. Card and Dahl hypothesize that “negative emotional cues” (i.e., a loss by the home football team) make a loss of control more likely. They find that unexpected losses by the home team “lead to an 8 percent increase in police reports of at-home male-on-female intimate-partner violence.” Furthermore, unexpected losses in important or particularly frustrating games have a 50 to 100 percent larger effect on domestic violence. The authors conclude that “at least a fraction of intimate partner violence appears to represent excessive behavior that is triggered by payoff-irrelevant emotional shocks, rather than strategic instrumental violence that is used to control an intimate partner.” [%comments]