Hate Crime Increases with Minoritized Group Rank

70 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2021 Last revised: 2 Mar 2022

See all articles by Mina Cikara

Mina Cikara

Harvard University

Vasiliki Fouka

Stanford University

Marco Tabellini

Harvard Business School

Date Written: February 28, 2022


People are on the move in unprecedented numbers within and between countries. How does demographic change affect local intergroup dynamics? In complement to accounts that emphasize stereotypical features of groups as determinants of their treatment, we propose the group reference dependence hypothesis: violence and negative attitudes toward each minoritized group will depend on the number and size of other minoritized groups in a community. Specifically, as groups increase or decrease in rank in terms of their size (e.g., to largest minority within a community), discriminatory behavior and attitudes toward them should change accordingly. We test this hypothesis for hate crimes in U.S. counties between 1990 and 2010 and attitudes in the U.S. and U.K. over the last two decades. Consistent with this prediction, we find that, as Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and Arab populations increase in rank relative to one another, they become more likely to be targeted with hate crimes and more negative attitudes. The rank effect holds above and beyond group size/proportion, growth rate, and many other alternative explanations. This framework makes novel predictions about how demographic shifts may affect coalitional structures in the coming years and helps explain previous findings in the literature. Our results also indicate that attitudes and behaviors toward social categories are not intransigent or driven only by features associated with those groups, such as stereotypes.

Keywords: hate crimes, prejudice, minority, reference dependence

Suggested Citation

Cikara, Mina and Fouka, Vasiliki and Tabellini, Marco, Hate Crime Increases with Minoritized Group Rank (February 28, 2022). Harvard Business School Working Paper No, 21-075, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3863364 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3863364

Mina Cikara

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Vasiliki Fouka

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Marco Tabellini (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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