Sunday, May 10, 2009

Movie Attendance and Violent Crime

A QJE paper by Stefano Della Vigna puts forward the provocative result that (after controlling for temporal effects) the release of violent films actually reduces assaults. The reason for this is that although the films do stimulate aggression, they also keep aggressive people off the street and not only keep them off the street but do so at a time when they would quite likely be drinking and getting into trouble otherwise. Bear in mind that many of these films are disproportionately viewed by young men and that many of them have several million tickets sold for times that would be associated otherwise with drinking then the results become a lot more intuitive.

While this paper cannot say anything about the long-run effects of exposure to violent images, it is certainly a very interesting result and methodology and the idea has many potential applications.


Kevin Denny said...

I think he talked about this stuff in his lecture at the Rome conference in September. I wonder, by the same token, does the release of sexually explicit films reduce sexual crime?

Martin Ryan said...

Kevin - you're correct; Stefano did present on this at IAREP last September.

It was the Up and Coming Bright Young Thing Session - themed as "The Economics Of The Media: A Behavioral Take." He focused on "how evidence from the field has played a growing role in behavioural economics over the last ten years, and how natural experiments, and in particular the ones using media data, can provide such evidence." He discussed two distinct topics based on recent articles published in the QJE. The first was "persuasion" --- presented using field evidence from the staggered introduction of Fox News in local cable markets in the US (and the effect of this on voting).

The second topic in Della Vigna's talk was the impact of arousal due to exposure to media violence. (Which is the article that Liam linked to.) Della Vigna compared "the level of violent crime on weekends when blockbuster violent movies are released, compared to other weekends (everything else held constant)." The data used was very novel, including an examination of the movie database! Kevin posted up a NBER paper by Della Vigna on the blog before: Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field, and Michael gave some interesting comments on it.

Link to all of the above here:
(including review of last year's IAREP conference):