Comparative Politics

Bilingual Instruction and Political Discrimination of Ethnic Outgroups: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Malaysia

Authors

Abstract

Why do some individuals discriminate against ethnic outgroups more than others in the political space? This article argues that variation in political prejudice against ethnic outgroups may be explained by a person’s language training in school. Specifically, individuals who received bilingual instruction should display less political discrimination against outgroup members than those who received monolingual instruction. By promoting the acquisition of a second language, bilingual education facilitates the cognitive development of perspective-taking ability, which in turn should foster more inclusive political attitudes. I find support for this argument through an investigation of an education reform in Malaysia, where affected Malay students experienced a mixture of English and mother tongue instruction while the rest were taught only in their native language. The evidence also points to the possibility of bilingual education as a compensatory avenue to narrow the perspective-taking ability gap between those who were raised in monolingual and bilingual families.

Content

Thumbnail image of Lang_PolDis_JS_main.pdf

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of Lang_PolDis_JS_SI.pdf
Supplementary Information
Includes a detailed description of the case study, survey design and variable measurements, additional empirical tests and results

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