From Anti-China Rhetoric to Anti-Asian Behavior: The Social and Economic Cost of 'Kung-Flu'

Posted: 15 Jun 2022

See all articles by Justin T. Huang

Justin T. Huang

Ross School of Business

Masha Krupenkin

Boston College Political Science

David M. Rothschild

Microsoft Research

Julia Lee

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Date Written: May 24, 2022

Abstract

Discrimination and violence directed towards Asian Americans in the United States increased dramatically following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this paper, we examine consumer discrimination against businesses associated with Asian Americans. Leveraging the pandemic as an exogenous shock to Americans' level of anti-Chinese sentiment, we utilize a series of analyses combining survey data, online search trends, and consumer cellular device mobility data to measure the effects of this shock on consumer discrimination against Chinese and other Asian restaurants. Survey and search data show that attitudes towards Chinese and non-Chinese Asian food declined precipitously during the pandemic, and this change in attitudes was driven by a mix of assigning blame for COVID-19 spread to Asians and experiencing fear of Chinese food. Analysis of cellular phone mobility data shows Asian restaurants suffered a 18.4% drop (95% C.I.: -15.9% to -20.8%) in traffic relative to non-Asian restaurants in the pandemic period. We explore heterogeneity in these effects by political affiliation and find strong correlation between support of former President Trump and avoidance of Asian restaurants. The results are consistent with the role of out-group homogeneity and ethnic misidentification as drivers of spillover effects of anti-Chinese sentiment on non-Chinese Asian restaurant traffic. This work documents some of the unique economic challenges faced by Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and has substantial implications for the study of consumer discrimination and stigmatization in public health communications.

Keywords: consumer discrimination; small business entrepreneurship, COVID-19 pandemic, racism and stigmatization, anti-Asian hate

JEL Classification: H12, J71, J78, I18

Suggested Citation

Huang, Justin and Krupenkin, Masha and Rothschild, David M. and Lee, Julia, From Anti-China Rhetoric to Anti-Asian Behavior: The Social and Economic Cost of 'Kung-Flu' (May 24, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4126787

Justin Huang (Contact Author)

Ross School of Business ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Masha Krupenkin

Boston College Political Science ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

David M. Rothschild

Microsoft Research ( email )

Redomond, WA 98052

Julia Lee

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States
734-647-4606 (Phone)

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