Empirical Micro Seminar

Do People Avoid Morally Relevant Information? Evidence from the Refugee Crisis

Eleonora Freddi (Tilburg University)
May 22, 2018 | 12:15 - 13:30 | SOF-G21

Combining unique click data from a Swedish newspaper and administrative data on asylum seekers in Sweden, I examine whether a larger presence of refugees in a municipality induces people to avoid news that may encourage welcoming the newcomers. Given the unexpected inflow of refugees who arrived to Sweden during 2015 and their exogenous allocation across Swedish municipalities, I can estimate the causal impact of refugee-presence on information avoidance exploiting variation across time and space. People living in municipalities where the relative number of refugees has been larger are shown to read fewer articles about asylum seekers. To isolate the mechanism of avoiding morally relevant information, I identify articles that may raise feelings of compassion towards the refugees. The decrease in information acquisition is 36 percent larger for articles that take the refugees' perspective. The findings are interpreted in light of a modified version of the motivated beliefs model due to Rabin (1995).