July 2020

IZA DP No. 13449: The Spillover of Anti-Immigration Politics to the Schoolyard

There has been a resurgence in right wing and populist politics in recent years. A common element is a focus on immigration, an increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the vilification of minorities. This in turn has the potential to lead to increases in societal hostility towards immigrants. Children are likely to find themselves at the frontline of this phenomenon. This paper uses census data on two cohorts of 5th grade Italian students to estimate the causal effect of anti-immigration politics on school bullying. We use variations in the timing of municipal elections in Italy and focus on the effect of Lega Nord, a far-right party, with a strong anti-immigration platform. We demonstrate that in municipalities where elections occur and Lega Nord is highly active, the victimisation of immigrant school children increases. These effects are large, while they are absent for municipalities in which Lega Nord has little support, where no elections occurred and for native children. These findings are robust to different definitions of bullying outcomes or different definitions of Lega Nord presence. Our results suggest important negative spillovers from the political sphere to the welfare of children that are likely to be consequential.