Racial biases against Asian Americans vary significantly across US states, influenced by such factors as the number of people of Asian descent and partisan tilt, according to a new study by researchers at New York University.
The researchers found that Republican-majority and swing states showed indications of greater stereotyping of Asian-born and Asian Americans, with European Americans more likely to see them as foreign. Such states with high implicit bias included West Virginia, Iowa, South Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
At the same time, states with older median ages and greater percentages of Asians were associated with the less explicit bias against Asians and Asian Americans. These included Hawaii, the District of Columbia, California, Nevada, and Texas, according to the study.
Nari Yoo, a PhD candidate in the NYU Silver School of Social Work, led the data-driven research, newly published by the American Sociological Assocition (ASA) journal Socius. The study is titled "Mapping Anti-Asian Xenophobia: State-level Variation in Implicit and Explicit Bias against Asian Americans across the United States." Coauthors include Professor Harvey Nicholson Jr. of the University of Toronto-St. George Campus, Professor Doris Chang of NYU Silver, and Professor Sumi Okazaki of NYU Steinhardt.
“Our study shows that experiences of Asians and Asian Americans are likely to significantly differ depending on their state of residence, with residents of some states expressing more biased views that Asian Americans are not as ‘American’ as whites,” Yoo says. “These insights should guide future research and interventions to address biases effectively at the state level.”
Violent assaults and verbal abuse against Asian Americans climbed during the peak of the COVID pandemic, bringing heightened attention as well as research to the problem. In order to improve understanding of Asian Americans’ diverse experiences of racism, Yoo and her coauthors in this study looked at state-level variations in implicit and explicit bias, as well as macro-level factors, such as racial density, political climate, and socioeconomic conditions that have been shown to influence racial attitudes.
The specific factors that can contribute to high levels of bias at the state level are not fully known. “In some cases, under certain conditions” the study read, “growing diversity may increase bias due to perceptions of threat and competition, which may be amplified through anti-immigrant sentiment.”
That finding is consistent with a previously documented link between higher bias levels and the percentage of foreign-born Asian adults within a given state. In terms of the higher implicit bias in Republican and swing states, Yoo explains, “While our study is exploratory, one possible explanation is that anti-Asian bias is connected to xenophobic racial attitudes held more strongly among the political right. In some states, due to residential patterns, people may have fewer opportunities to have meaningful intergroup interactions to learn about the experiences of racial and ethnic minorities.”
“Mapping Anti-Asian Xenpphobia” was conducted as part of the NYU ABRA (Asian and Black Americans, Racism, and Allyship) project whose primary investigators are Professors Chang and Professor Okazaki, funded by NYU Silver’s Constance and Martin Silver Center on Data Science and Social Equity, where Nari is a predoctoral fellow.