Crises do not necessarily increase discrimination

Using the current pandemic as an example, we show that social and economic crises do not necessarily translate into increased levels of ethnic discrimination. We repeated a field experiment in the housing market, and find no clear evidence of increased discrimination against the most important immigrant groups in Switzerland.

How does this fit with accounts of increased levels of hate speech, especially at the beginning of the pandemic? We think it is important to differentiate between “cheap” behaviour that does not cost the perpetrator much (hate speech, exclusionary attitudes) and “costly” behaviour where the perpetrators take a risk (e.g. risk of not rending out an apartment, risk of not hiring the best candidate). Moreover, we think it is important to recognize that crises not only affect boundary making and exclusion (that’s what social theory tells us), but also increase economic uncertainty — a change that affects how (economic) actors behave.

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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