Here’s a very brief overview of the empirical evidence of structural racism we capture in Switzerland.
As part of a broader study, we carried out a scoping review of empirical evidence for structural racism in Switzerland. We could identify 304 studies on this country alone, and jointly they draw a picture in line with structural racism.
Structural racism is a reality. We were asked by the Service for Combating Racism to gather existing evidence for structural racism. Today, the results are announced (press release in German, French, Italian). There are accessible 10-page summaries available in German, French, and Italian, and more detailed 50-page reports in German, French, and Italian over at the website of the SFM. For those interested in more technical details, or a brief overview in English, there’s an online appendix.
To synthesize the literature, we chose a scoping review, in which we screened around 1,500 studies to identify 304 studies that treat structural racism in Switzerland broadly defined. Only studies with empirical evidence were used, and only those who covered the situation in Switzerland. In addition, we used interviews to better make sense of the results, and to provide a contemporary understanding of structural racism. Our contribution was the synthesis, not the knowledge that was already out there — albeit scattered in different places.
Drawing on a conceptual frame by Osta and Vasquez (2021), we approached structural racism with three components (history, policies, practices; inequitable outcomes, disparities; associations, stereotypes, assumptions) and connections between these components. All methods identify racial inequalities, racialized practices, or racist stereotypes across spheres and groups. Many studies draw on migration and nationality for classification, and most studies provide partial evidence, but when considered jointly, the existing literature provides a clear picture consistent with structural racism.
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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