Group-Based Injustice, but Not Group-Based Economic Inequality, Predicts Political Violence Across 18 African Countries

Journal article

Sakstrup, Casper & Henrikas Bartusevičius (2024) Group-Based Injustice, but Not Group-Based Economic Inequality, Predicts Political Violence Across 18 African Countries, Social Psychological and Personality Science. DOI:

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Political violence causes immense human suffering. Scholars pinpoint economic inequalities between ethnic groups as a major cause of such violence. However, the relationships between group-based inequality, group-based injustice, and political violence are not fully understood. Combining insights from social psychological research on collective action and political science research on civil conflict, we underscore that it is group-based injustice that motivates violence. A perception that one’s group has been treated unfairly tends to produce conflict-related emotions (e.g., anger). By contrast, a mere perception that one’s group is of lower economic status rarely produces such emotions. Furthermore, perceived economic disadvantage negatively relates to perceived political efficacy, which may dissuade engagement in political violence. To assess these arguments, we analyzed attitudes toward, intentions to engage in, and self-reported engagement in political violence, utilizing probability samples from 18 African countries (N > 37,000). We found that measures of group-based perceived injustice, whether controlling or not for group-based economic inequality, predicted all violent outcomes; whereas measures of perceived group-based inequality predicted (negatively) self-reported participation in violence but not the other outcomes. We advance both social psychological and political science literatures, suggesting that group-based injustice and inequality are distinct constructs, relating to political violence via different pathways.

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