(2023). “Locked Down, Lashing Out: COVID-19 Effects on Asian Hate Crimes in Italy.” Journal of Politics, 2023, forthcoming.
COVID-19 caused a major health crisis and an economic crisis, conditions identified as conducive to stigmatization and hostility against minority groups. It is however unclear whether the threat of infection triggers hate crimes in addition to stigmatization and whether such a reaction can happen at the onset of an unexpected economic shock, before social hierarchies can be disrupted. Leveraging variation across Italian municipalities, we show that (i) hate crimes against Asians increased substantially at the pandemic onset and that (ii) the increase was concentrated in cities with higher expected unemployment but not higher excess mortality. We then examine individual, local, and national mobilization as potential mechanisms and find evidence suggesting that (iii) a xenophobic national discourse and local far-right institutions motivate hate crimes, while we find no strong support for the role of individual prejudice. Our study identifies new conditions triggering hateful behavior, advancing our understanding of factors hindering migrant integration.