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Gauging the potential for social unrest

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  • Stark, Oded
  • Hyll, Walter
  • Behrens, Doris A.

Abstract

It stands to reason that social unrest does not erupt out of the blue. Although there are a great many reasons why social dismay might descend into social disorder, only few yardsticks or indices can plausibly be used to gauge the potential for social unrest (PSU). If policy makers want to undertake public action to prevent social dismay escalating into social disruption, they obviously need to draw on practical sensors. This paper assesses critically the adequacy of two such measures, the polarization (P) index, and the total relative deprivation (TRD) index. The paper proposes a tentative guide to selecting between these two measures. A review of three stylized scenarios suggests that, where income redistributions reduce the number of distinct income groups, and when each group is characterized by a strong sense of within-group identity, the P index surpasses the TRD index as a basis for predicting PSU. When the within-group identification is weak, however, it is better to use the TRD index to predict PSU.

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Paper provided by University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF) in its series Discussion Papers with number 53721.

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Date of creation: Sep 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ags:ubzefd:53721

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Keywords: Social dismay; The potential for social unrest; Polarization; Total relative deprivation; Policy choice; Public Economics; D31; D63;

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  1. Atin Basuchoudhary & William Shughart, 2010. "On Ethnic Conflict And The Origins Of Transnational Terrorism," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(1), pages 65-87.
  2. Jean-Yves Duclos & Joan Esteban & Debraj Ray, 2004. "Polarization: Concepts, Measurement, Estimation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(6), pages 1737-1772, November.
  3. Esteban, J. & Ray, D., 1993. "On the Measurement of Polarization," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 221.93, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  4. BOSSERT, Walter & D’AMBROSIO, Conchita, 2004. "Reference Groups and Individual Deprivation," Cahiers de recherche 13-2004, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  5. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1979. "Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 321-24, May.
  6. Stark, Oded, 2006. "Inequality and migration: A behavioral link," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 146-152, April.
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