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Covid-19 Crisis Fuels Hostility against Foreigners

Vojtěch Bartoš, Michal Bauer, Jana Cahlíková and Julie Chytilová
Additional contact information
Michal Bauer: CERGE-EI Prague
Jana Cahlíková: MPI for Tax Law and Public Finance Munich
Julie Chytilová: CERGE-EI Prague

No 243, Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series from CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition

Abstract: Intergroup conflicts represent one of the most pressing problems facing human society. Sudden spikes in aggressive behavior, including pogroms, often take place during periods of economic hardship or health pandemics, but little is known about the underlying mechanism behind such change in behavior. Many scholars attribute it to scapegoating, a psychological need to redirect anger and to blame an out-group for hardship and problems beyond one's own control. However, causal evidence of whether hardship triggers out-group hostility has been lacking. Here we test this idea in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing on the common concern that it may foster nationalistic sentiments and racism. Using a controlled money-burning task, we elicited hostile behavior among a nationally representative sample (n = 2,186) in a Central European country, at a time when the entire population was under lockdown and border closure. We find that exogenously elevating salience of thoughts related to Covid-19 pandemic magnifies hostility and discrimination against foreigners, especially from Asia. This behavioral response is large in magnitude and holds across various demographic sub-groups. For policy, the results underscore the importance of not inflaming racist sentiments and suggest that efforts to recover international trade and cooperation will need to address both social and economic damage.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; scapegoating; hostility; inter-group conflict; discrimination; experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C90 D01 D63 D91 J15 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-05-14
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-exp, nep-hea and nep-sea
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Related works:
Working Paper: Covid-19 Crisis Fuels Hostility against Foreigners (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Covid-19 Crisis Fuels Hostility against Foreigners (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: COVID-19 Crisis Fuels Hostility against Foreigners (2020) Downloads
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