Asian Restaurants Lose Billions: Study Links Decline to COVID Pandemic-Fueled Discrimination

Chinese Food Takeout Fortune Cookie

The research revealed that anti-China sentiment fueled consumer discrimination, resulting in a staggering loss of $7.4 billion in revenue for Asian restaurants in 2020.

A recent study has uncovered a strong correlation between a nearly 20% decrease in business at Chinese restaurants and political rhetoric that placed blame on China for the Covid-19 pandemic.

A recent study conducted by researchers from Boston College, the University of Michigan, and Microsoft Research, has shed light on the impact of anti-China sentiments on Asian restaurants. The study found that at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-China fervor fueled consumer discrimination, leading to a significant loss of $7.4 billion in revenue for Asian restaurants in 2020. The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

According to Boston College Assistant Professor of Political Science Masha Krupenkin, who is a co-author of the study, Asian restaurants experienced a loss of 18.4 percent more revenue compared to non-Asian restaurants.

The findings begin to put a finer point on the broad economic costs of anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic and the role of politicians who focused blame on China, where the coronavirus emerged in late 2019.

Attitudes towards Chinese and non-Chinese Asian food declined precipitously during the pandemic and this change in attitudes was driven by a mix of assigning blame for COVID-19 spread to Asians and experiencing fear of Chinese food, the researchers report.

“The Covid-19 pandemic originated in China,” said Krupenkin. “Many actors in US politics and media, especially those that were ideologically conservative, emphasized the connection between covid and China as a way of placing blame for the pandemic. At the same time, there was a sharp increase in incidents of discrimination and violence against Asian-Americans.”

The pandemic effectively delivered a “shock” to consumer discrimination against Chinese and other Asian restaurants, survey data, online search trends, and consumer cellular device mobility data studied by the team revealed.

“Our analysis estimates that COVID-related stigma and anti-Asian hate cost Asian American businesses $7.42 billion in lost revenue in 2020, highlighting how negative sentiment towards foreign entities can spillover into consumer discrimination targeting domestic minority groups,” said co-author Justin T. Huang, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Michigan. “These patterns echo how Muslim Americans faced widespread discrimination, hate, and stigma post-9/11 and exemplify how some American minority groups are perceived through the lens of the perpetual foreigner stereotype.”

There were political aspects to the downturn in business, according to the team. A range of data found that anti-Asian discrimination was stronger in areas that had a higher percentage of residents who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

According to the organization Stop AAPI Hate, there were almost 11,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders reported to the organization between March 2020 and December 2021.

“While there’s been research on violence against Asian-Americans, most acts of discrimination are more subtle,” said Krupenkin. “We set out to measure one of these more subtle forms of discrimination – consumer discrimination. This allowed us to examine a much more common – and economically meaningful – form of discrimination against Asian-Americans.”

The team – which also included Julia Lee of the University of Michigan and David Rothschild of Microsoft Research – was surprised to find that anti-China bias among consumers also affected restaurants serving cuisine from other Asian cultures.

Consumers would sometimes misidentify other Asian restaurants as Chinese, leading to decreased visits to those restaurants as well.

“Trump and conservative media had very thoroughly connected Covid to China specifically, so it was surprising to see a decrease in visits to other Asian restaurants as well,” Krupenkin said. “We tested this more thoroughly and found that many Americans misidentify other Asian restaurants as Chinese, which likely explains the spillover effects we saw.”

Parsing unique economic challenges faced by Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, the team believes the research has substantial implications for the study of consumer discrimination and stigmatization in public health communications.

Krupenkin said the researchers hope to further examine and connect patterns of discrimination to negative media narratives about specific groups.

Reference: “The cost of anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic” by Justin T. Huang, Masha Krupenkin, David Rothschild and Julia Lee Cunningham, 19 January 2023, Nature Human Behaviour.
DOI: 10.1038/s41562-022-01493-6

3 Comments on "Asian Restaurants Lose Billions: Study Links Decline to COVID Pandemic-Fueled Discrimination"

  1. Discriminating Consumer | February 14, 2023 at 2:05 pm | Reply

    People are allowed to choose where they eat, for good or bad reasons. In “the onset of the pandemic”, infections were higher in areas with people who travel to and from China particularly over the lunar new year, and ethnic Chinese or Chinese nationals are more likely to do so; just ask Italy. So, maybe former customers didn’t want to die. “Consumer Discrimination”? What unbelievable entitlement to someone else’s money.

    I always mostly ate at Asian food restaurants, as is my preference. I stopped going to all restaurants, because they all refused me service, and I haven’t gone back even though they might welcome me and are desperate for customers. That means I’m mostly not going to Asian restaurants. This kind of statistical nonsense would label that systemic racism.

  2. Get this race baiting bulls*** off the site good gosh.

    Conservatives are racist, its all their fault!!!
    Science my a**.

  3. Yeah, except this article is filled with terminology that is currently overloaded with political messages. Why not use the same standard when talking about how straight white men are facing the brunt of all “discrimination” by leftoid politics and are given the least voice in the matter?

    This is not science. This is leftist political propaganda that has poisoned science. It belongs on a leftist fake news website. Why not talk about all the businesses that were destroyed during the violent BLM riots? Oh yeah, if you didn’t have double standards, you wouldn’t have any standards at all.

    Except the world knows it. Your day of accountability is coming very soon.

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