Title

Blaming the Ref: Understanding the Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Family Violence

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2020

Document Number

20-11

Department/Program/Center

Economics

Abstract

Domestic violence generates long-term effects on offenders, victims, and other household members. Insight into triggers of family violence can inform policy and improve services aimed at reducing abusive behavior. We investigate potential domestic violence triggers by analyzing unexpected losses in National Basketball Association games. The literature identifies increasing in-home violence after unexpected losses in the National Football League. Combining information on referee accuracy and fatigue, we develop a unique identification strategy to explore the impact of human error on family violence following unexpected losses. Results indicate that as referees are more accurate (more rested) in unexpected losses, family violence decreases, suggesting that the ability to place blame for a loss on referees increases the likelihood of violent outbursts. Further investigation shows that these results concentrate in games where referees are less rested and betting markets were less certain of the game outcome.

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