U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Alcohol and Rape: An "Economics-of-Crime" Perspective

NCJ Number
International Review of Law and Economics Volume: 27 Issue: 4 Dated: 2007 Pages: 442-473
Date Published
32 pages

Using a panel of State data for the years 1982 - 2000, this study examined the potential relationship between a State's alcohol policy, alcohol consumption, and rape, with the dependent measure being the state-level rape rate (rapes per 100,000 State residents) presented in Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and primary independent variables being controls for alcohol consumption.


The findings support the hypothesis that a substantial portion of the link between alcohol consumption and rape arises because of victim consumption of alcohol (beer, wine, or liquor) rather than offender consumption. Victim consumption of alcohol increases a victim's vulnerability to rape, because it decreases the victim's cognitive awareness as well as her emotional and physical strength to resist sexual advances. This reduces potential offenders' expected cost of rape due to lack of sufficient evidence for arrest and prosecution for nonconsensual sexual acts. Thus, in the context of the economics of crime, rape-rates are expected to rise with the consumption of alcohol, particularly among women. Some victims, on the other hand, recognize that they are more vulnerable to sexual assault when intoxicated, so when they perceive higher risks of rape, they tend to reduce alcohol consumption. Thus, a decrease in alcohol consumption among women tends to be linked to a decline in the rape rate. Consideration of the limited set of policy variables that are used as instruments in the tests provides at least tentative support for the "alcohol-increases-potential-victims-vulnerability" hypothesis. None of the results, however, justify rejecting the hypothesis that alcohol consumption may also influence offender behavior. The authors caution that the policy implications derived in this study should not be used as serious guides for policy, partly because they probably suffer from missing-variable bias. 8 tables and 65 references

Date Published: January 1, 2007