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Disguising Prejudice: Popular Rationales as Excuses for Intolerant Expression

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  • Leonardo Bursztyn
  • Ingar K. Haaland
  • Aakaash Rao
  • Christopher P. Roth

Abstract

We study the use of popular rationales to justify public anti-minority actions. Rationales to oppose minorities change some people's private opinions, leading them to take anti-minority actions even if they are not prejudiced against minorities. When these rationales become widespread, prejudiced people can pool with unprejudiced people who are persuaded, decreasing the stigma associated with anti-minority expression and enabling greater public opposition to minority groups. We examine this mechanism through several large-scale experiments in the context of anti-immigrant behavior in the United States. In a first experiment, subjects learn that a previous respondent authorized a donation to an anti-immigrant organization and then make an inference about the respondent's underlying motivations. Subjects informed that their matched respondent learned about a study claiming that immigrants increase crime rates before authorizing the donation see the respondent as less intolerant and more easily persuadable. In a second experiment, subjects learn about that same study and then choose whether to authorize a publicly observable donation to the anti-immigrant organization. Subjects who are informed that their exposure to the rationale will be publicly observable are substantially more likely to make the donation than subjects who are informed that their exposure will remain private. Our findings suggest that prominent public figures can lower the social cost of intolerant expression by popularizing rationales, contributing to waves of anti-minority behavior.

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  • Leonardo Bursztyn & Ingar K. Haaland & Aakaash Rao & Christopher P. Roth, 2020. "Disguising Prejudice: Popular Rationales as Excuses for Intolerant Expression," NBER Working Papers 27288, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27288
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    3. Emeric Henry & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya & Sergei Guriev, 2022. "Checking and Sharing Alt-Facts," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 55-86, August.
    4. Peter Andre & Ingar Haaland & Christopher Roth & Johannes Wohlfart, 2021. "Narratives about the Macroeconomy," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 127, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    5. Chopra, Felix & Haaland, Ingar & Roth, Christopher, 2022. "Do people demand fact-checked news? Evidence from U.S. Democrats," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 205(C).
    6. Manuel Bagues & Christopher Roth, 2022. "Interregional Contact and the Formation of a Shared Identity," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 152, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    7. Jiménez-Durán, Rafael, 2022. "The economics of content moderation: Theory and experimental evidence from hate speech on Twitter," Working Papers 324, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State.
    8. Cevat Giray Aksoy & Christopher S. Carpenter & Ralph De Haas & Mathias Dolls & Lisa Windsteiger, 2023. "Reducing Sexual Orientation Discrimination: Experimental Evidence from Basic Information Treatments," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 42(1), pages 35-59, January.
    9. repec:hal:spmain:info:hdl:2441/27dls12b6d8aor7i6sipg9ie3g is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Emeric Henry & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya & Sergei Guriev, 2022. "Checking and Sharing Alt-Facts," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 55-86, August.
    11. Eugen Dimant & Tobias Gesche, 2021. "Nudging Enforcers: How Norm Perceptions and Motives for Lying Shape Sanctions," CESifo Working Paper Series 9385, CESifo.
    12. Emeric Henry & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya & Sergei Guriev, 2022. "Checking and Sharing Alt-Facts," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 55-86, August.
    13. Ingar Haaland & Christopher Roth, 2019. "Beliefs about Racial Discrimination and Support for Pro-Black Policies," CESifo Working Paper Series 7828, CESifo.
    14. Alesina, Alberto F & Tabellini, Marco, 2020. "The Political Effects of Immigration: Culture or Economics?," CEPR Discussion Papers 15486, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Alvaro Calderon & Vasiliki Fouka & Marco Tabellini, 2021. "Racial Diversity and Racial Policy Preferences: The Great Migration and Civil Rights," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 2133, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    16. repec:hal:wpspec:info:hdl:2441/27dls12b6d8aor7i6sipg9ie3g is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Rafael Jimenez-Duran, 2021. "The Economics of Content Moderation: Theory and Experimental Evidence from Hate Speech on Twitter," Natural Field Experiments 00754, The Field Experiments Website.
    18. Leonardo Bursztyn & Thomas Chaney & Tarek Alexander Hassan & Aakash Rao, 2021. "The Immigrant Next Door: Exposure, Prejudice, and Altruism," Working Papers 2021-16, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    19. Emeric Henry & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya & Sergei Guriev, 2022. "Checking and Sharing Alt-Facts," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 55-86, August.
    20. Patricio Dom'inguez & Nicol'as Grau & Dami'an Vergara, 2022. "Discrimination Against Immigrants in the Criminal Justice System: Evidence from Pretrial Detentions," Papers 2202.10685, arXiv.org.
    21. Mathias Dewatripont & Jean Tirole, 2022. "The Morality of Markets," Working Papers ECARES 2022-35, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    22. Hillenbrand, Adrian & Verrina, Eugenio, 2022. "The asymmetric effect of narratives on prosocial behavior," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 241-270.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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