by Noam Yutchman
As of 2015, 330,000 Mainland Chinese students attended U.S. universities, accounting for 31.5% of the international student body. What are the consequences of immersion in a foreign society on students studying away from home? In particular, what are the effects of immersion in a democratic society on students brought up under an authoritarian regime? In this project we study several dimensions of the effects of exposure to U.S. institutions on Chinese students’ political attitudes and behavior. We first aim to document the evolution of students’ views over time. Theoretically, exposure to the U.S. might lead Chinese students’ attitudes to become more politically liberal; however, it might lead to ideological “backlash” and greater political conservatism. It is important to note that students studying abroad have very different incentives to assimilate from long-term migrants: around 70-80% of Chinese students return home, so assimilation into U.S. society might be socially costly in the long run. We also plan to examine the role of social interactions in shaping political views among Chinese students in the U.S. Social networks will shape the information sets of students and also determine a range of incentives to access particular information and express particular views. Finally, we plan to conduct an experiment on the effects of early access to previously inaccessible news media on Chinese students’ experiences in the U.S. Working with partners in the media sector (e.g., the New York Times’ Asia Office), we plan to offer free access to the New York Times to a random subset of students whom we study.