Tuesday, March 22, 2011

'The People Want the Fall of the Regime': Schooling, Political Protest, and the Economy

by Filipe R. Campante and Davin Chor
(Harvard University & Singapore Management University)

Harvard Kennedy School
HKS Working Paper No. RWP11-018
March 21, 2011

We examine several hypotheses regarding the determinants and implications of political protest, motivated by the wave of popular uprisings in Arab countries starting in late 2010. While the popular narrative has emphasized the role of a youthful demography and political repression, we draw attention back to one of the most fundamental correlates of political activity identified in the literature, namely education. Using a combination of individual-level micro data and cross-country macro data, we highlight how rising levels of education coupled with economic under-performance jointly provide a strong explanation for participation in protest modes of political activity as well as incumbent turnover. Political protests are thus more likely when an increasingly educated populace does not have commensurate economic gains. We also find that the implied political instability is associated with heightened pressures towards democratization.

Read the Paper