Do Far-Right Mayors Increase the Probability of Hate Crimes? Evidence From Italy
63 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2020 Last revised: 7 Dec 2020
Date Written: December 6, 2020
In this paper, I investigate whether the election of far-right politicians affects the probability of hate crimes against immigrants. I exploit a unique dataset on hate crimes, and I focus on local mayors in Italy, a country where political support for extreme-right has recently soared. The high number of municipalities allows me to perform a Regression Discontinuity (RD) analysis and establish a causal relationship between the appointment of far-right politicians and hate crimes by focusing on local elections that far-right candidates won or lost with a tiny margin of victory. Results show that in municipalities where extreme-right mayors are in power, the likelihood of a hate crime occurring is significantly higher (around five percentage points). The effect of far-right mayors on hate crimes is particularly strong in the early years of their mandate. Besides, it persists when considering the most severe acts, including physical assaults. I find two mechanisms particularly relevant. First, I demonstrate that the election of a far-right mayor generates an erosion of social norms. This behavioral change does not occur only in the municipalities where the mayors are elected: using a staggered difference-in-differences approach, I prove the existence of spillover effects on hate crimes also in the surrounding municipalities, especially in areas where the extreme-right presence is recent. Second, I explore the role of the Internet, and I show that the results are driven by municipalities with higher broadband penetration.
Keywords: hate crimes, local politicians, close elections
JEL Classification: J15, J17, D15
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation