Sociology, Department of


First Advisor

Regina E. Werum

Date of this Version



Ratcliff, Shawn. 2017. "Protest in the Post-Cold War Era: World Systems Dynamics and Hardship Effects in Post-Colonial Countries." M.A., University of Nebraska-Lincoln


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Sociology, Under the Supervision of Professor Regina Werum. Lincoln, NE: May, 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Shawn M. Ratcliff


In this thesis, I explore the determinants of protests across 15 post-colonial countries from 1990 to 2010. Specifically, I investigate the direct and mediating impact of global economic dynamics and hardships experienced by populations in these countries. To that end, I employ world systems theory as well as relative deprivation and political opportunity theories. Analyses employ pooled-time series analysis based on national-level data from the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT), as well as data from the World Bank and the Polity IV project, which provide insight into the role of world systems dynamics on social unrest. Analyses demonstrate a strong direct, yet nonlinear, impact of world systems indicators on levels of protest. In contrast, the direct effect of hardships on protests suggests a more complex relationship. Male labor force participation rate appears to be the only measure to partially mediate between world systems indicators and protests. Importantly, I find evidence that the effects of hardship indicators on protest are strongly non-linear. For example, while female labor force participation was not significant in the full linear model, non-linear results indicate a U-shape relationship with protests. While complex, results indicate global economic indicators and hardships are predictive of protests, even after controlling for political opportunities. These findings do not undermine political opportunity explanations, however they do indicate research has underestimated the importance of quality of life measures as a driver for protests.

Advisor: Dr. Regina Werum