Collateral damage: The relationship between high-salience events and variation in racial discrimination
Publication typeFT ranked journal article
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AbstractTo what extent are individual or organizational biases affected by racially salient events? We propose that acts of discrimination and the individual biases that undergird them are sensitive to high-salience events and will oscillate with the salience of the focal attribute. In short, that the propensity to discriminate reflects both individual and environmental differences, and therefore a given person may become more prone to discriminate in the aftermath of a high-salience event. We test our hypothesis in three online experiments that examine how varying the salience of race affects the evaluation of in-group or out-group founders. We find that respondents evaluate their in-group members more favorably, and out-group members less favorably, when exposed to a high-salience event, which translates into a significant disadvantage for the minority (African American) group. We complement these studies with an assessment of how police shootings affect fundraising outcomes on Kickstarter to confirm the external validity of our findings. Together, these studies indicate that racially salient events depress the quality evaluations and success odds of African American entrepreneurs relative to others. Hence, discrimination levels can be affected by salient yet unrelated events, and such events are consequential for the economic fortunes of individuals belonging to minority and disadvantaged groups.