A large body of evidence documents a link between alcohol consumption and violence involving intimate partners and close family members. Recent scholarship suggests that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders, there has been a marked increase in domestic violence. This research considers an important mechanism behind the increase in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic: an increase in the riskiness of alcohol consumption. We combine 911 call data with newly available high-resolution microdata on visits to bars and liquor stores in Detroit, MI and find that the strength of the relationship between visits to alcohol outlets and domestic violence more than doubles starting in March 2020. We find more limited evidence with respect to non-domestic assaults, supporting our conclusion that it is not alcohol consumption per se but alcohol consumption at home that is a principal driver of domestic violence.

Document Type

Working Paper


Fall 9-2023


Alcohol, COVID, domestic violence




Working Papers Series


We thank Ross Epstein of SafeGraph for providing us with the data and helping us understand it. This research was supported by the Integrative Biosciences Center (IBio) which has received grant funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Foundation The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.


Economic Policy | Economics | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Public Policy



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.