Pandemic Leads to more Anti-Asian Discrimination

Sociologists from the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES) demonstrate in their study CILS4COVID that people of Asian descent in Germany suffered from discrimination a lot more during the initial phase of the coronavirus pandemic. Discrimination increased particularly in areas that have been strongly affected by the pandemic.

“Even before the pandemic, people with a migration background from Turkey, Asia, Africa, or the Middle East felt that they were discriminated against more often due to their cultural background. In particular people of Asian descent affirmed the question if this changed since the beginning of the pandemic” explains Dr. Jörg Dollmann from the MZES study team. About half of the 80 people with an Asian migration background who were interviewed for the study indicated that have felt discriminated against more often since the beginning of the pandemic. The research team interviewed more than 3,500 young adults all over Germany between April 2020 and January 2021.

Asians usually less discriminated
Dollmann and his colleague Prof. Irena Kogan published the results of their interviews in an international journal. According to the research team, their results match other preliminary findings from Germany but also from other European countries. However, the phenomenon known as COVID-19–associated discrimination (CAD) has not been studied enough. The researchers consider possible reasons for increased hostility and discrimination to be that – especially during the beginning of the pandemic – Asia, or more particularly China were in the public focus as the virus’ area of origin. Apparently, people with an Asian appearance were seen as potential spreaders of the virus or were even considered responsible for the pandemic. Especially people of Asian descent who live in areas that were strongly affected by the pandemic reported that they were discriminated more often.

Other groups are also affected – but only in areas with high incidence rates
People of Asian descent are not alone. In areas with high incidence rates, people originating from the Americas and the former Soviet Union also said that they were discriminated more often than before. The research team assumes that maybe these groups in particular experienced more discrimination than other ethnic groups because of the pandemic development in those regions and the respective media coverage. Fact is that the pandemic situation was particularly dynamic in the US, South America or Russia during the data collection stage of the survey.


But in this context, the team also warns about overinterpreting the study: “Our results fulfill scientific standards. However, we interviewed less than 200 people of Asian descent, of American descent or from the former Soviet Union respectively. Furthermore, we only interviewed young adults for our survey. In order to learn more about COVID-19–associated discrimination, we think that large-scale follow-up surveys would be necessary.”

CILS4COVID – add-on study of the long-term project CILS4EU
Since 2010, a team of the MZES has been interviewing thousands of young people with diverse social and ethnical backgrounds on different topics, such as their professional career, religion and friendships for the long-term study “Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey in Four European Countries” (CILS4EU). CILS4EU is funded by the NORFACE, a partnership of national research funding agencies in Europe and the German Research Foundation (DFG). The team of the CILS4EU study always interviews the same participants. This makes it possible to analyze how their living conditions and opinions change over time.

Further information and contact
Dollmann, Jörg and Irena Kogan (2021): COVID-19 associated discrimination in Germany. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Volume 74.