The study of racial prejudice has for decades occupied a central place in the social sciences, and yet certain basic research questions remain largely unexamined. One such question concerns the conditions under which racially-motivated crimes occur. Is the frequency of racial harassment and violence higher in areas where minorities make up a small proportion of the population, or where their numbers are on par with those of the dominant racial group? A related question concerns the link between demographic change and racially motivated crime. To what extent does minority victimization depend on the ways in which the proportions of different racial groups have changed over time? Finally, to what extent and in what ways do economic circumstances affect the incidence of acts of intimidation directed at minorities? In a series of studies, my colleagues and I have examined what might be termed the "macrosociological" correlates of hate crime. The findings may be summarized as follows: * Macroeconomic fluctuations have very little to do with hate crime. Replicating all of the published studies of anti-Black lynching in the pre-Depression South, we find very little evidence that lynchings increased in response to downturns in cotton prices or general economic conditions. The same finding turns up in contemporary hate crime data. Monthly tabulations of hate crime in New York City gathered by the Bias Crime Unit of the New York Police Department bear no relationship to unemployment rates, regardless of whether we speak of Black, Latino, Jewish, Asian, gay/lesbian, or white victims. * Racially motivated hate crime erupts when a racially/ethnically homogeneous area begins to experience in-migration of people from other racial/ethnic groups, the classic case being the Canarsie region of Brooklyn. This area was predominantly white until a rapid in-migration of nonwhites occurred during the 1980s, with a concomitant rash of hate crime. Ironically, integrated neighborhoods, which are often characterized as cauldrons of racial hostility, tend to have lower rates of hate crime. * Germany after unification illustrates the limitations of the economic hypothesis and the strength of the demographic hypothesis. Late in 1990, the German government changed its policy for locating foreigners and asylum-seekers. Up to that point, new settlers tended to go to what had formerly been West Germany. The new policy required 20% of the immigrants to go to the racially homogeneous East - a natural experiment in which rapid in-migration meets ethnic homogeneity. The result was an historic explosion of hate crime. Thousands of anti-foreigner attacks occurred through 1993, when the policy was reversed. Anti-foreigner attacks have declined markedly in each subsequent year, despite ongoing problems of high unemployment. * Hate crime perpetrators are not unusually frustrated economically, but do show a distinctive aversion to racial mixing and intergroup contact. Our interviews with hate crime perpetrators and white supremacists indicate that what sets them apart from the general public is their visceral sense of discomfort with social change. They are much more likely to support a ban on interracial marriage, for example, or to endorse the view that "the traditional way of life is disappearing so fast that we need to use force to save it." Though seldom affluent or well-educated, hate crime perpetrators are not distinctive in their evaluations of their economic circumstances, current or prospective.
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