COVID-19 Crisis Fuels Hostility against Foreigners

47 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020

See all articles by Vojtech Bartos

Vojtech Bartos

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)

Michal Bauer

Charles University in Prague - Institute of Economic Studies; CERGE-EI

Jana Cahlikova

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance; Charles University in Prague - CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute)

Julie Chytilová

Charles University in Prague - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 25, 2020

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

JEL Classification: C90, D01, D63, D91, J15

Suggested Citation

Bartos, Vojtech and Bauer, Michal and Cahlikova, Jana and Chytilová, Julie, COVID-19 Crisis Fuels Hostility against Foreigners (April 25, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3593411 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3593411

Vojtech Bartos

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, DE Bavaria 80539
Germany

Michal Bauer (Contact Author)

Charles University in Prague - Institute of Economic Studies ( email )

Opletalova 26
Prague 1, 110 00
Czech Republic
+420 222 112 317 (Phone)
+420 222 112 304 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://ies.fsv.cuni.cz/index.php?module=kernel&action=user&id_user=183&lng=en_GB

CERGE-EI ( email )

P.O. Box 882
7 Politickych veznu
Prague 1, 111 21
Czech Republic

Jana Cahlikova

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance ( email )

Marstallplatz 1
Munich, 80539
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.janacahlikova.net

Charles University in Prague - CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute) ( email )

P.O. Box 882
7 Politickych veznu
Prague 1, 111 21
Czech Republic

Julie Chytilová

Charles University in Prague - Department of Economics ( email )

Opletalova 26
Prague 1, 163 00
Czech Republic

HOME PAGE: http://ies.fsv.cuni.cz/index.php?module=kernel&action=user&id_user=130&lng=cs_CZ

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