Out now — No Sign of Increased Ethnic Discrimination during a Crisis: Evidence from the Covid-19 Pandemic

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s been an increase in hate-crime again Asians in many countries around the world. Some identified more negative attitudes against immigrants — a classic case of what is known as scapegoating.

In this article, just out at the Socio-Economic Review, we wanted to know if scapegoating and discrimination of minorities is a defining feature of crises. That’s what social theory argues. In the present case, we wanted to know if ethnic discrimination increased, too — the actual (and consequential) behaviour where minorities are invited less often to view apartments they want to rent. To do so, we replicated a field experiment in the Swiss housing market at the beginning of the pandemic.

Overall, we find no evidence of increased discrimination against the most important immigrant groups in Switzerland. When digging deeper, we found that uncertainty in the housing market was important. Rather than excluding immigrants more often, proprietors and rental agencies seem to have changed their selection behaviour and focus on different signals or markers of solvency and reliability: Instead of ethnicity/minority status, now immigrants with highly skilled jobs were at an advantage.

We conclude that crises do not necessarily increase discriminatory behaviour in market situations.

Auer, Daniel, Didier Ruedin, and Eva Van Belle. 2023. ‘No Sign of Increased Ethnic Discrimination during a Crisis: Evidence from the Covid-19 Pandemic’. Socio-Economic Review. DOI: 10.1093/ser/mwac069

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