Racial Discrimination and Anti-discrimination: The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Chinese Restaurants in North America

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/isre.2021.0568

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to an increase in cases of racial discrimination against Asians, especially Chinese people. Despite an emerging stream of studies investigating various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, research on the behavioral consequences of racial discrimination during the pandemic remains scarce. In this work, we examined how racial discrimination stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent anti-discrimination were manifested on online platforms. By combining difference-in-differences analyses on two large-scale panel data sets from Yelp.com and SafeGraph and two controlled experiments, we explored the impact of COVID-19 on Chinese restaurants relative to non-Chinese restaurants at different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. We found that the COVID-19 pandemic led to an immediate increase in racial discrimination, which was reflected in a significant drop in the customer patronage frequency of Chinese restaurants as compared with that of non-Chinese restaurants. Furthermore, analyses using multiple behavioral indicators generated by text mining and machine learning techniques consistently suggested that increased discrimination triggered anti-discrimination actions of customers on online platforms after the COVID-19 outbreak. This study contributes to the literature on racial discrimination by investigating a subtle but more factual form of racial discrimination evidenced by the customer patronage of Chinese restaurants as well as user-generated content by demonstrating that consumers can fight discrimination on online platforms.

History: Paul Pavlou, Senior Editor; Yan Huang, Associate Editor.

Funding: The authors are grateful for the financial support of the Basic and Applied Basic Research Foundation of Guangdong Province [Grant 2023A1515010823]; the National Natural Science Foundation of China [Grants 72102099 and 71832010].

Supplemental Material: The online appendix is available at https://doi.org/10.1287/isre.2021.0568.

INFORMS site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; Others help us improve the user experience. By using this site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Please read our Privacy Statement to learn more.