: Nobel Prize-winning economist David Card’s lesser-known research explored relationship between domestic violence and football results


David Card, a co-recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics, is best known for his research on labor markets — specifically the effects of minimum wage and immigration

But Card’s research extends well beyond these issues. 

In 2011, Card coauthored a study with University of California, San Diego economist Gordon B. Dahl on the relationship between NFL football teams losing games they were expected to win and the rate of at-home domestic violence. 

The two used family violence data from more than 750 city and county police agencies in the National Incident Based Reporting System merged with information on Sunday NFL games played by six teams over a 12-year period. The study was initially published in 2009; a revised version was published in 2011.

Their research found that “‘upset losses’ by the home team (losses when the team was predicted to win by four points or more) lead to a roughly 10% increase in the number of police reports of at home male-on-female intimate partner violence.”

But when a region’s team wasn’t expected to win, but did, there was “no significant effect on family violence.”

“The estimated impact of an upset loss, for example, is about one-third as large as the jump in violence on a major holiday like Independence Day,” Card and Dahl wrote. Their research also suggested that an unexpected football game loss caused abusers to lose control of their emotions.

(The NFL did not respond to a request for comment.)

In the U.S. nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, amounting to 10 million people per year, according to data published by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Early in the pandemic, officials reported notable upticks in reports of domestic violence while victims were forced to shelter in place with their abusers. Subsequent research has suggested that worldwide, violence against women and children has increased during the pandemic, and that women and children living in households that lost income or did not have enough food appeared to be at particular risk.

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