Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics

CeDEx 2020-12: The Brexit referendum and the rise in hate crime; conforming to the new norm


We document a sharp increase in hate crime in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. We show that this rise was more pronounced in more pro-remain areas. These facts are consistent with a model in which individual behavior is dictated by a desire to conform to imperfectly observable social norms in addition to following individual preferences. Arguably, the referendum was a source of new information about society’s overall preferences over immigration in a context where other determinants of attitudes remained constant. We exploit this feature of the referendum for identification. We build a quantitative model to examine whether the observed trends can be replicated with a sensible parameterization of the model. Our estimation of the conformity parameter allows us to quantify the role of shared narratives, national identity and stereotypes in shaping aggregate behavior.

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Facundo Albornoz, Jake Bradley and Silvia Sonderegger


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Posted on Thursday 4th June 2020

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