Behavior & Incentives

Domestic abuse in the NFL seems to be the story that will not end. There are just too many plot twists or turns apparently. I have very little to say on the matter except I did discuss it with students so here is what I told them. First, I am amazed on the shock many have about this. This is a profession that heightens the aggression of the individuals and encourages them to physically dominate and overwhelm their opponent. Are NFL players expected to just turn this off when they go home? JT will laugh because, as I told my students, it seems like I can never turn off the economist in me. It is how I trained and what I do, whether at the office, at home, or out at the store. (That and JT tells me my brain works differently than others.) However, we expect NFL players to completely change into somebody else after the work day ends. So again, there is no justification or excuse for it, but it surprises me we do not hear about this more.

The more worrisome issue in all this is that the various penalties are going to provide a disincentive to many women reporting the crime. I encourage my students to identify the incentives of an individual agent to help predict behavior and so we did so in this case. Make no mistake, this financially impacts Mrs. Rice as well as her husband. Now I am not saying it will never be reported by an NFL player spouse again, but if their husband is up for a new contract, some might make the calculation that it is better to wait for a contract to be signed before proceeding with the claim. This is not a healthy situation and it is one that likely increases the potential for abuse or at least for women to remain in abusive situations and that is not something I think we want as a society, but we need to think carefully about the incentives we create when we make a policy. There needs to be punishment, but we need to make sure that individuals report crimes in a timely fashion too. We are not doing that right now.

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