Political Participation After a Mass Protest Movement: Evidence from the Arab Spring

Nada Shalash, Boston University

This paper explores the individual and social determinants of political engagement across the Middle East before and after the Arab Spring. Using the Arab Spring as an example of a mass uprising spanning multiple countries, I conduct a difference-in-differences analysis of socioeconomic determinants of political engagement in the Middle East. I examine the relationship between socioeconomic characteristics such as age, education, and labor market outcomes and an individual’s level of political engagement and civic participation. I compare the political engagement of individuals in countries that experienced large-scale protests in 2011 (Arab Spring countries) to that of otherwise similar individuals in countries that are in the same region but were not directly affected (non-Arab Spring countries) using data from the World Bank, World Values Survey, and Arab Barometer. I find that Arab Spring exposure is associated with an 8.2 percentage point increase in political engagement through protesting, but there are heterogeneous effects across different Arab Spring countries. I also find that more highly educated individuals, especially those with a college education, are more likely to participate in protests and demonstrate an interest in politics across both Arab Spring and non-Arab Spring countries. College education is associated with a 6.38 percentage point increase in the likelihood of protesting and 13 percentage point increase in attention to politics relative to secondary education. Lastly, I find that unemployment correlates with higher levels of political engagement across both Arab Spring and non-Arab Spring countries.

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