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It is your fault: workplace consequences of anti-Asian stigma during COVID-19

Danielle M. Gardner (Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)
Caitlin Q. Briggs (Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)
Ann Marie Ryan (Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 19 May 2021



As COVID-19 cases rose in the US, so too did instances of discrimination against Asians. The current research seeks to understand and document discrimination toward Asians in the US specifically linked to the global pandemic (study 1). The authors test hypotheses based in social categorization and intergroup contact theories, demonstrating perceived pandemic blame is a mechanism for discrimination (study 2).


In study 1, the authors survey Asians living in the US regarding experiences and perceptions of COVID-19-related discrimination. In study 2, a two-time point survey examined whether participant perceptions of pandemic blame toward China predict discriminatory behavior toward Asians.


Study 1 demonstrated that 22.5% of US-residing Asians report personally encountering pandemic-related discrimination. Study 2 indicated that COVID-19 blame attributions toward China predicted anticipated hiring bias and increased physical distancing of Asians at work, associated with higher levels of US identification.

Research limitations/implications

The findings have theoretical implications for research on blame and stigmatization, as well as practical implications regarding bias mitigation.


The present studies advance understanding of event-based blame as a driver of prejudice and discrimination at work and suggest organizations attend to bias mitigation in conjunction with uncertainty reduction communications in challenging times.



This research was funded by a Michigan State University College of Social Science COVID-19 Small Grant.


Gardner, D.M., Briggs, C.Q. and Ryan, A.M. (2021), "It is your fault: workplace consequences of anti-Asian stigma during COVID-19", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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