Asian Americans became targets of increasingly hostile behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. What motivated this? Fears of contagion arising from a behavioral immune system may have motivated hostility toward Asian Americans, especially among those Americans vulnerable to COVID-19. Additionally, stigmatizing rhetoric from right-wing figures may have legitimated anti-Asian behavior among those Americans who held stronger anti-Asian sentiments to begin with or who were more receptive to right-wing rhetoric. We explore these possibilities using a behavioral game with a representative sample of Americans at two points: in May and October 2020. Participants were partnered with a U.S.- or Chinese-born American in a give-or-take dictator game. The average American discriminated against Chinese-born Americans in May but not October 2020, when China was no longer a COVID-19 hotspot. But among Republicans, who may have held stronger anti-Asian sentiments to begin with and who were likely more receptive to right-wing rhetoric, discrimination - that is, differential treatment - was both stronger in May compared to non-Republicans and persisted into October 2020. Notably, Americans who were more vulnerable to COVID-19 were not especially likely to discriminate.
- Asian Americans
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science