Daniel Auer, Didier Ruedin
How one gesture curbed ethnic discrimination

European Journal of Political Research, 2023: 62, issue 3, pp. 945-966
ISSN: 0304-4130 (print), 1475-6765 (online)

Members of ethnic and racial minorities across North America and Europe continue to face discrimination, for instance, when applying for jobs or seeking housing. Such unequal treatment can occur because societies categorize people into groups along social, cultural, or ethnic and racial lines that seemingly rationalize differential treatment. Research suggests that it may take generations for such differences to decline, if they change at all. Here, we show that a single gesture by international soccer players at the World Cup 2018 – followed by an extensive public debate – led to a measurable and lasting decline in discrimination. Immediately after the galvanizing event, invitation rates to view apartments increased by 6 percentage points for the migrant group represented by the players, while responses to the native population did not change noticeably. We demonstrate that anti-immigrant behavior can disband rapidly when the public receives messages challenging the nature of ethnic and racial categories while sharing a common cause.