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Prejudice and Economic Threat

By Matthew Yglesias on August 9, 2010 at 12:57 pm

"Prejudice and Economic Threat"

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Interesting study from David A. Butza and Kumar Yogeeswaranb with implications for the impact of economic conditions on social tolerance:

Macroeconomic conditions have long been suspected of increasing hostility toward ethnic outgroups. Integrating prior work on macroeconomic threat with recent threat-based models of prejudice, the current work employs an experimental approach to examine the implications of economic threat for prejudice toward ethnic outgroups. In Study 1, participants primed with an economic threat (relative to a non-economic threat and neutral topic) reported more prejudice against Asian Americans, an ethnic group whose stereotype implies a threat to scarce employment opportunities. In addition, economic threat led to a heightened state of anxiety, which mediated the influence of economic threat on prejudice against Asian Americans. Study 2 replicated and extended these findings by demonstrating that economic threat heightened prejudice against Asian Americans, but not Black Americans, an ethnic group whose stereotype does not imply a threat to economic resources. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for understanding the role of macroeconomic conditions in potentiating antisocial responses to particular outgroups.

I think you can see this very clearly with immigration politics. Over the past three years, the net flow of undocumented migrants has declined sharply and even turned negative but the level of public concern about the issue keeps going up. That’s because overall labor market conditions are driving an increase in concern, despite a reduction in the “objective” scale of the “problem.” People are worried and people like to personify their emotions.

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