Nan Zhang, Johanna Gereke, Delia Baldassarri
Everyday Discrimination in Public Spaces: A Field Experiment in the Milan Metro

European Sociological Review, 2022: 38, issue 5, pp. 679–693
ISSN: 0266-7215 (print), 1468-2672 (online)

A large scholarship documents discrimination against immigrants and ethnic minorities in institutional settings such as labour and housing markets in Europe. We know less, however, about discrimination in informal and unstructured everyday encounters. To address this gap, we report results from a large-scale field experiment examining the physical avoidance of immigrants as an unobtrusive yet important measure of everyday discrimination in a multiethnic European metropolis. In addition to varying confederates’ migration background and race, we also vary signals of status (business versus casual attire) in order to shed light on the mechanisms underlying discriminatory patterns. We find that natives are averse to contact with Nigerian confederates, but do not discriminate against Chinese confederates. Furthermore, manipulating confederates’ attire has little effect on natives’ behaviour. Overall, our results highlight the everyday burdens borne particularly by individuals of African descent in commonplace, ‘street-level’ encounters.