Panel Paper: Long-Term Effects of Violent Media Content

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Lobby Level, Director's Row E (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Isaac Swensen, Montana State University, Glen R. Waddell, University of Oregon and Jason M. Lindo, Texas A&M University

In this study we provide the first causal estimates of the long-term effects of media violence. Specifically, we evaluate the effects of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), a hit TV show that features fighters training and competing in violent mixed martial arts bouts and which, in 2005, brought Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) into the mainstream. We estimate the causal effect of TUF on violent-crime rates with panel data from police agencies across the United States and an identification strategy that uses network ratings prior to TUF's premier as an instrumental variable. We show that the TUF's first season significantly reduced violent-crime rates: these effects began in the month the show premiered and persisted for many years. Moreover, these estimates do not reflect systematic differences across areas in their trends in crime rates prior to 2005. To complement our main results, we also investigate the effects of "UFC Main Events," which air in bars and on Pay-Per-View. This analysis additionally suggests reductions in violence caused by viewership.