The Effect of Media Coverage on Mass Shootings

22 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2018

See all articles by Michael Jetter

Michael Jetter

University of Western Australia; IZA

Jay Walker

Old Dominion University


Can media coverage of shooters encourage future mass shootings? We explore the link between the day-to-day prime time television news coverage of shootings on ABC World News Tonight and subsequent mass shootings in the US from January 1, 2013 to June 23, 2016. To circumvent latent endogeneity concerns, we employ an instrumental variable strategy: worldwide disaster deaths provide an exogenous variation that systematically crowds out shooting-related coverage. Our findings consistently suggest a positive and statistically significant effect of coverage on the number of subsequent shootings, lasting for 4-10 days.At its mean, news coverage is suggested to cause approximately three mass shootings in the following week, which would explain 55 percent of all mass shootings in our sample. Results are qualitatively consistent when using (i) additional keywords to capture shooting-related news coverage, (ii) alternative definitions of mass shootings, (iii) the number of injured or killed people as the dependent variable, and (iv) an alternative, longer data source for mass shootings from 2006-2016.

Keywords: media effects, mass shootings, contagion hypothesis, instrumental variable estimation

JEL Classification: C26, D91, F52, L82

Suggested Citation

Jetter, Michael and Walker, Jay, The Effect of Media Coverage on Mass Shootings. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11900, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Jetter (Contact Author)

University of Western Australia ( email )

35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, Western Australia 6009

Jay Walker

Old Dominion University

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