Where do Angry Birds Tweet? Income inequality and online hate in Italy.

Abstract. Do spatial socioeconomic features influence a digital behaviour like cyberhate? Our contribution provides an answer to this question showing how high levels of income inequality determine high volumes of hate tweets in Italy. Our findings are robust to potential endogeneity problems of income inequality, as well as to the inclusion of confounding factors and to competing estimation strategies. Additionally, we find that education does not act as a protective factor against cyberhate production in unequal places, aligning with existing evidence showing that inequality may trigger intolerance also among educated people threatening the perceived stability of social positions. Also, in the Italian case the perception of economic insecurity fuels the occurrence of cyberhate, alongside the transmission of self-interest values along family generations. The latter finding relates to existing evidence supporting the role of persistent social norms in shaping people’s attitudes.

Recipient of the 2020 North American Regional Science Council (NARSC) 1st runner up award in the student-led paper competition