Comparative Politics

Bilingual Education Reduces Ethnic Outgroup Discrimination Through Perspective-Taking



How to reduce intergroup prejudice is one of the most difficult challenges many societies face. Research on prejudice reduction usually focuses on short-term interventions that yield relatively inconclusive results. Instead, I focus on people’s formative years and argue that bilingual instruction in schools durably reduces political discrimination against ethnic outgroups. By promoting the acquisition of a second language, bilingual instruction facilitates the cognitive development of perspective-taking ability, which in turn fosters more inclusive political attitudes. I find support for this argument by studying the effects of an education reform in Malaysia, which resulted in those students who were born after the cutoff receiving bilingual instruction, while those born before the cutoff were only taught in their mother tongue. I also provide suggestive evidence that the observed patterns stemmed from improvements in perspective-taking ability. The findings imply that education plays a pivotal role in reducing intergroup prejudice from an early age.

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Made editorial changes.


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Supplementary material

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


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