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

See all articles by Runjing Lu

Runjing Lu

University of Alberta - Department of Finance

Sophie Yanying Sheng

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 9, 2020

Abstract

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

Lu, Runjing and Sheng, Sophie Yanying, From Fear to Hate: How A Pandemic Sparks Racial Animus in the United States (July 9, 2020). 21st Century China Center Research Paper 2021-11, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3646880 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3646880

Runjing Lu (Contact Author)

University of Alberta - Department of Finance ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R3
Canada

Sophie Yanying Sheng

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
565
Abstract Views
4,609
rank
60,742
PlumX Metrics