Measuring the Tolerance of the State: Theory and Application to Protest
We develop a measure of a regime's tolerance for an action by its citizens. We ground our measure in an economic model and apply it to the setting of political protest. In the model, a regime anticipating a protest can take a costly action to repress it. We define the regime's tolerance as the ratio of its cost of repression to its cost of protest. Because an intolerant regime will engage in repression whenever protest is sufficiently likely, a regime's tolerance determines the maximum equilibrium probability of protest. Tolerance can therefore be identified from the distribution of protest probabilities. We construct a novel cross-national database of protest occurrence and protest predictors, and apply machine-learning methods to estimate protest probabilities. We use the estimated protest probabilities to form a measure of tolerance at the country, country-year, and country-month levels. We apply the measure to questions of interest.
We acknowledge funding from the Data Science Initiative, the Population Studies and Training Center, the Eastman Professorship, and the JP Morgan Chase Research Assistant Program at Brown University. We are grateful to the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names for sharing their database of country names and official languages with us in a convenient form. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding or data sources. We thank Isaiah Andrews, Dan Björkegren, Ben Feigenberg, Bård Harstad, David I. Levine, Eduardo Montero, David Yang, and audiences at Brown University, Georgetown University, Reichman University (IDC Herzliya), Harvard University, ETH Zurich, and the Cowles Foundation for comments and suggestions. We thank our many dedicated research assistants for their contributions to this project. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Jesse M. Shapiro
Shapiro has, in the past, been a paid visitor at Microsoft Research New England and a paid consultant for FutureOfCapitalism, LLC. Shapiro has been paid for writing by the New York Times.
Shapiro's spouse has a disclosure statement posted at https://emilyoster.net/about/.