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The economic wisdom of Ray Lewis (updated)

No, the title is not a typo. In this interview for ESPN, Lewis claims that,

"one of the consequences of a lost NFL season will be an increase in crime...'Do this research if we don't have a season -- watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game,' Lewis told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio.

When asked why he thought crime would increase if the NFL doesn't play games this year, Lewis said: 'There's nothing else to do Sal,'"

Let's put aside the unintentional comedy of an man guilty of obstruction of justice in a murder case giving preditions about criminal behavior and focus on Lewis' comments.

Basically, Lewis says in the absence of football, people will go do other things instead and exhorts people to go do research on what happens when sports stikes and lockouts occur. Well, Lewis' wish is our command.

Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys and Rob Baumann, Rob Baade, and myself find ourselves, at least partially, in odd agreement with Lewis. Our studies of real per capita personal income and taxable sales in cities that have experienced work stoppages in professional sports have found that people do indeed find other things to do when sports are not around. But rather than turning to crime, these two studies find people simply turn to other economic activities leading to no obsevable changes in real economic variables despite the lack of football, baseball, hockey, or basketball.

On the other hand, Daniel Rees and Kevin Schnepel's work on college football suggests that at least at the collegiate level, crime rises when the game is played not when it is absent. According to the pair of economists, "Our results suggest that the host community registers sharp increases in assaults, vandalism, arrests for disorderly conduct, and arrests for alcohol-related offenses on game days. Upsets are associated with the largest increases in the number of expected offenses."

I'm just glad my research is the side that basically agrees with Ray Lewis. I certainly wouldn't want to be Daniel and Kevin contradicting him.

Update:  Dan and Kevin have informed me that they have emailed Ray Lewis a link to David Card and Gordon Dahl's paper, "Family Violence and Football" (QJE, 2010), which shows that NFL games (and not just college games) are also linked to observable increases in domestic violence. Since this paper more directly contradicts Lewis' claim, Dan and Kevin assume they are off the hook. And since David is a full professor at Berkeley, they figure he is in the best position to pay for a security entourage.

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