We document a sharp increase in hate crime in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. We show that this rise was more pronounced in more pro-remain areas. These facts are consistent with a model in which individual behavior is dictated by a desire to conform to imperfectly observable social norms in addition to following individual preferences. Arguably, the referendum was a source of new information about society's overall preferences over immigration in a context where other determinants of attitudes remained constant. We exploit this feature of the referendum for identification. We build a quantitative model to examine whether the observed trends can be replicated with a sensible parameterization of the model. Our estimation of the conformity parameter allows us to quantify the role of shared narratives, national identity and stereotypes in shaping aggregate behavior.
Hate crime Brexit attitudes towards immigrants social norms value of information