Discrete Events and Hate Crimes: The Causal Role of the Brexit Referendum


Objective. The article contributes to the literature on discrete events and behavioral change amongthe public by studying the link between the United Kingdom’s 2016 “Brexit”referendum and racialand religious hate crime. Methods. Time series intervention models on daily and monthly hatecrime numbers from the UK Home Office and police forces, controlling for other events such asterror attacks. A range of robustness tests including additional vector auto-regression. Results. TheBrexit referendum led to a 19–23 percent increase in hate crimes, but did not lead to a longer-termincrease. The results are robust to a range of alternative specifications, and there is no evidenceof a relationship between media coverage of hate crime or immigration salience and hate crimes.The results also show the consistent, large effect of terror attacks on increasing the number ofhate crimes. Conclusion. The Brexit referendum caused an increase in hate crimes on par withterror attacks. Discrete political events, like referendums and elections, can play a sizeable role inprejudicial behavioral change

Social Science Quarterly