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Stateside Podcast: Quantifying anti-Asian prejudice

A closeup of a sign hanging in a window. It reads, "Sorry, we're closed."
Nick Papakyriazis via flickr
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that Asian restaurants experienced a 18.4% on average drop in traffic relative to non-Asian restaurants in the same regions.

In the past three years, we’ve seen political leaders talk up COVID-19 conspiracies about China. The U.S. has also experienced an uptick in hate crimes against Asian people.

For professors at University of Michigan Ross School of business Justin Huang and Julia Cunningham, who are both Asian American, this was personal. As researchers, they wanted to know the extent of this atmosphere of anti-Asian hate. Was it only found in outward violent expressions or was it also causing tangible economic harm?

"We wanted to not just say that of course business traffic is dropping in the post-pandemic period, but whether or not it was the case that Asian businesses were suffering an additional penalty," Huang said. "Donald Trump has stigmatized this COVID-19 pandemic. He's called it the 'China virus.' He's called it 'kung flu.' Does that mean that, for example, consumers see Korean-American restaurants, Thai-American restaurants...and they say, 'well, this seems like an Asian restaurant. Does that mean that we avoid them as well?'"

Their study found that there was an 18.4% relative drop for Asian restaurants versus non-Asian restaurants in the post-COVID period. They quantified this as about $7.42 billion of lost revenue to these Asian restaurants.

I think it really speaks to the responsibility that politicians, that more broadly the media has, in making sure to not create stigma...towards domestic minority groups as a result of these events that are going on overseas," Huang said. "And unfortunately, we've seen this happen...around anti-Japanese sentiment and anti-Muslim sentiment, post-9-11 attacks, and now we see anti-Asian sentiment in the post-pandemic period."

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Ronia Cabansag is a producer for Stateside. She comes to Michigan Public from Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a BS in Media Studies & Journalism and English Linguistics with a minor in Computer Science.
Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Public in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the summer of 2020.