Educating Demonstrators: Education and Mass Protest in Africa

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Wig, Tore & Sirianne Dahlum (2018) Educating Demonstrators: Education and Mass Protest in Africa, Journal of Conflict Resolution 63(1): 3–30.

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​Does a more educated population spur regime-challenging mass protest? It is commonly argued that educated individuals are more likely to collectively challenge governments through protests and that this may explain why education is associated with democratization. While many studies have investigated education’s effect on conventional political participation (voting, petitioning, etc.), it is not known whether education levels affect contentious mass protest. This article argues that education increases the frequency of mass protest, by alleviating collective-action problems and motivating mass opposition, particularly in autocracies. These links are investigated at the subnational level in Africa, by mapping over 600,000 survey respondents to spatialized protest-event data. We present evidence that areas with more educated populations have higher levels of protest activity, and we find mixed evidence consistent with both opportunity- and grievance-related mechanisms driving this relationship. We proceed to identify the causal effect of education by using the location of colonial-era Christian missions to instrument for local education levels.

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