Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Effect of Alcohol Regulation on Violence Against Women in India

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 9:10 AM
Johnson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Emily Owens, University of Pennsylvania, Dara Lee Luca, Harvard University and Gunjan Sharma, World Bank
High rates of violence against women and girls are one of the most pressing issues facing both developed and developing countries today. The World Health Organization estimates that a third of women globally have experienced intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime (WHO, 2013). While sexual violence remains a poorly understood phenomenon, a large body of ecological studies have identified alcohol consumption as a consistent risk factor. To the extent that a substantively important causal relationship between alcohol consumption and domestic violence exists, alcohol regulation is a potentially promising lever that policy makers could use to reduce violence against women.

In this paper, we combine a newly collected set of alcohol regulations across states in India, with detailed survey microdata and state-panel crime data, to investigate the effect of alcohol regulation on violence against women. Due to institutional and cultural reasons, women in India effectively do not drink. In other words, alcohol regulation affects only the perpetrator’s likelihood of alcohol consumption, so that it removes the confounding effect of possible increased risk of a woman becoming a victim due to intoxication.  Further, India is one of the few countries in the world where alcohol control laws are made and implemented at the state level. In particular, there is substantial spatial and temporal variation in alcohol regulation policies across Indian states: a number of states prohibit alcohol consumption altogether, and the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA), where it exists, varies from 18 to 25. We find that men are more likely to drink when they are of legal drinking age, and that the wives of these men are substantially more likely to report being physically abused. We then extend our analysis to a longer panel dataset of state level crime rates, and find that higher state minimum legal drinking ages are associated with lower rates of violence against women. Our results suggest that alcohol control merits consideration as a policy to combat violence against women.