From Fear to Hate: How A Pandemic Sparks Racial Animus in the United States
45 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2020 Last revised: 29 Jun 2021
Date Written: July 9, 2020
This paper studies how a pandemic triggers racial animus as measured by Google searches and Twitter posts that include commonly used racial slurs. We exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the timing of the first COVID-19 diagnosis across regions in the United States. The first local diagnosis leads to an immediate increase in racist Google searches and Twitter posts targeted at Asians. Alarmingly, the majority of racist Twitter posts come from existing users who post anti-Asian slurs for the first time and are not restricted to posts explicitly mentioning COVID-19, implying that the anti-Asian sentiment may persist beyond the duration of the pandemic. Moreover, online animosity and offline hate incidents against Asians both heighten when President Trump more frequently links China and COVID-19 in his tweets while the increase in racial animus is not stronger in areas enduring more severe economic impact of the pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19, Racial animus, Xenophobia, Social media, Hate crime
JEL Classification: J15, D74, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation