Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Economic Development, Mobility, and Political Discontent: An Experimental Test of Tocqueville’s Thesis in Pakistan

  • ANDREW HEALY (a1), KATRINA KOSEC (a2) and CECILIA HYUNJUNG MO (a3)
Abstract

We consider the thesis of Alexis de Tocqueville (1856) that economic development and increased mobility may generate political discontent not present in more stagnant economies. For many citizens, as they become aware of the potential for improved living standards, their aspirations may increase faster than actual living standards. Expanded opportunity may then paradoxically result in dissatisfaction with government rather than greater confidence. We develop a formal model to capture Tocqueville’s (1856) verbal theory and test its predictions using a 2012–2013 face-to-face survey experiment conducted in Pakistan. The experiment utilizes established treatments to subtly manipulate either a participant’s perceptions of her own economic well-being, her perceptions of society-wide mobility, or both. As predicted by the theory, political discontent rises when declining personal well-being coincides with high mobility to create unrealized aspirations. The results thus identify the conditions under which expanded economic opportunity can lead to political unrest.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Andrew Healy is Professor of Economics (on leave), Loyola Marymount University, One LMU Drive, Room 4229, Los Angeles, CA 90045 (ahealy@lmu.edu); Senior Strategist for Player Personnel, Cleveland Browns, 76 Lou Groza Blvd., Berea, OH 44017.
Katrina Kosec is Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute, Development Strategy and Governance Division, 2033 K Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20006 (k.kosec@cgiar.org).
Cecilia Hyunjung Mo is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Vanderbilt University, PMB 0505, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203 (cecilia.h.mo@vanderbilt.edu).
Footnotes
Hide All

We thank the dedicated team at Innovative Development Strategies (IDS), who in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), carried out the extensive data collection activities for our Pakistan Rural Household Panel Survey (RHPS). We are grateful to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University for their support while this research was being conducted. We also thank Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse and Tanguy Bernard for providing us with the survey questions relating to aspirations from the IFPRI Ethiopia Rural Household Survey, which helped inform our survey questions on aspirations in the Pakistan RHPS. We gratefully acknowledge insightful comments and guidance from Adam Meirowitz, Emily Nacol, Danielle Resnick, Rick K. Wilson, Alan Wiseman, and Elizabeth Zechmeister, as well as the discussants and participants at the 2016 annual meeting of the Behavioral Models of Politics at University of Pittsburgh, the Midwest Political Science Association, and the Southern Political Science Association. All remaining errors are our own.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Acemoglu Daron, Egorov Georgy, and Sonin Konstantin. 2015. “Re-evaluating de Tocqueville: Social Mobility and Stability of Democracy.” Working Paper, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ansolabehere Stephen, Rodden Jonathan, and Snyder James M. Jr.. 2008. “The Strength of Issues: Using Multiple Measures to Gauge Preference Stability, Ideological Constraint, and Issue Voting.” American Political Science Review 102 (2): 215–32.
Benjamini Yoav, and Hochberg Yosef. 1995. “Controlling the False Discovery Rate: A Practical and Powerful Approach to Multiple Testing.” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series B (Methodological) 57 (1): 289300.
Benjamini Yoav, Krieger Abba M., and Yekutieli Daniel. 2006. “Adaptive Linear Step-Up Procedures That Control the False Discovery Rate.” Biometrika 93 (3): 491507.
Berger Jonah, Meredith Marc, and Wheeler S. Christian. 2008. “Contextual Priming: Where People Vote Affects How They Vote.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (26): 8846–9.
Bernard Tanguy, and Taffesse Alemayehu Seyoum. 2014. “Aspirations: An Approach to Measurement with Validation Using Ethiopian Data.” Journal of African Economies 23 (2): 189224.
Bernard Tanguy, and Taffesse Alemayehu Seyoum. 2012. “Measuring Aspirations: Discussion and Example from Ethiopia.” International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Discussion Paper 01190.
Biemer Paul P., Groves Robert M., Lyberg Lars E., Mathiowetz Nancy A., and Sudman Seymour. 2011. Measurement Errors in Surveys. Vol. 173. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
Blair Dennis, Neumann Ronald, and Olson Eric. 2014. “Fixing Fragile States.” The National Interest, August 27.
Blau Peter M. Blau, and Duncan Otis D.. 1967. The American Occupational Structure. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Central Intelligence Agency. 2015. “The World Factbook 2013–14.” Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency.
Corak Miles. 2012. “Economic Mobility Across the Generations in the United States: Comparisons, Causes, and Consequences.” Written Testimony to the United States Senate, Committee on Finance July 10th, 2012 Hearing on “Tax Reform: Drivers of Intergenerational Mobility and the Tax Code.” http://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Corak%20Testimony.pdf.
Courneya Kerry S., Jones Lee W., Rhodes Ryan E., and Blanchard Chris M.. 2003. “Effect of Response Scales on Self-Reported Exercise Frequency.” American Journal of Health Behavior 27 (6): 613–22.
Crosby Faye. 1976. “A Model of Egoistic Relative Deprivation.” Psychological Review 83: 95113.
DeMarree Kenneth G., Wheeler S. Christian, and Petty Richard E.. 2005. “Priming a New Identity: Self-Monitoring Moderates the Effects of Nonself Primes on Self-Judgments and Behavior.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89 (5): 657–71.
Fair Christine, Littman Rebecca, Malhotra Neil, and Shapiro Jacob N.. 2015. “Relative Poverty, Perceived Violence, and Support for Militant Politics: Evidence from Pakistan.” Working Paper, Stanford University.
Festinger Leon. 1954. “A Theory of Social Comparison Processes.” Human Relations 7: 117–40.
Genicot Garance, and Ray Debraj. 2017. “Aspirations and Inequality.” Econometrica 85 (2): 489519.
Ghani Ashraf, and Lockhart Clare F.. 2009. Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World. Cambridge, UK: Oxford University Press.
Goldhammer Arthur, and Elster Jon. 2011. Tocqueville: The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Haisley Emily, Mostafa Romel, and Loewenstein George. 2008. “Subjective Relative Income and Lottery Ticket Purchases.” Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 21: 283–95.
Heath Chip, Larrick Richard, and Wu George. 1999. “Goals as Reference Points.” Cognitive Psychology 38: 79109.
Hirschman Albert O., and Rothschild Michael. 1973. “The Changing Tolerance for Income Inequality in the Course of Economic Development.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 87: 544–66.
Kahneman Daniel, and Tversky Amos. 1979. “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk.” Econometrica 47 (March): 263–92.
Keidel Albert. 2005. “The Economic Basis for Social Unrest in China.” Third European-American Dialogue on China, Washington, D.C., May 26–27.
Kosec Katrina, and Khan Huma. 2016. “Understanding the Aspirations of the Rural Poor.” In Agriculture and Rural Poverty Reduction in Pakistan, eds. Spielman David, Malik Sohail, Dorosh Paul, and Ahmad Nuzhat. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Lamb Robert D. 2008. “Ungoverned Areas and Threats from Safe Havens.” Washington, DC: Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning. Retrieved May 29, 2017 (http://cissmdev.devcloud.acquia-sites.com/sites/default/files/papers/ugash_report_final.pdf).
Lewis-Beck Michael S. 1988. Economics and Elections: The Major Western Democracies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Lewis-Beck Michael Steven, and Nadeau Richard. 2011. “Economic Voting Theory: Testing New Dimensions.” Electoral Studies 30 (2): 288–94.
Lipset Seymour Martin. 1960. Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Lodge Milton, and Taber Charles S.. 2005. “The Automaticity of Affect for Political Leaders, Groups, and Issues: An Experimental Test of the Hot Cognition Hypothesis.” Political Psychology 26 (3): 8846–49.
Menon Geeta, Raghubir Priya, and Schwarz Norbert. 1997. “How Much Will I Spend? Factors Affecting Consumers’ Estimates of Future Expense.” Journal of Consumer Psychology 6 (2): 141–64.
Merton Robert, and Rossi Alice S.. 1950. “Contributions to the Theory of Reference Group Behavior.” In Continuitites in Social Research, eds. Merton Robert, and Lazarsfeld Paul. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Mo Cecilia. 2012. “Essays in Behavioral Political Economy: The Effects of Affect, Attitude, and Aspirations.” Ph.D. Diss. Stanford University, Stanford, CA. http://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/9623096.
Mo Cecilia. 2017. “The Effects of Perceived Relative Poverty on Risk: An Aspirations-Based Model of Trafficking Vulnerability.” Political Behavior 131. Advance online publication. DOI:10.1007/s11109-017-9401-0.
Moore Barrington. 1966. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press.
Mutz Diana C., and Pemantle Robin. 2015. “Standards for Experimental Research: Encouraging a Better Understanding of Experimental Methods.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 2 (02): 192215.
Persson Torsten, and Tabellini Guido. 2002. Political Economics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ray Debraj. 2006. “Aspirations, Poverty and Economic Change.” In Understanding Poverty, eds. Banerjee Abhijit V., Benabou Roland, and Mookherjee Dilip. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 409–43.
Rockwood Todd H., Sangster Roberta L., and Dillman Don A.. 1997. “The Effect of Response Categories on Questionnaire Answers.” Sociological Methods and Research 26 (1): 118–49.
Shwarz Norbert, Hipper Hans J., Deutsch Brigitte, and Strack Fritz. 1985. “Response Scales: Effects of Category Range on Reported Behavior and Comparative Judgments.” Public Opinion Quarterly 49: 388–95.
Suls Jerry M., and Wheeler Ladd. 2000. Handbook of Social Comparison: Theory and Research. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
Tocqueville Alexis de. 1835. Democracy in America. trans. Reeve Henry. South Australia: The University of Adelaide.
Tocqueville Alexis de. 1856. The Old Regime and the Revolution. trans. by Bonner John. New York: Harper Press.
Walker Iain, and Smith Heather J.. 2001. Relative Deprivation: Specification, Development and Integration. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary materials

Healy supplementary material
Online Appendix

 PDF (361 KB)
361 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 40
Total number of PDF views: 366 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1638 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 29th June 2017 - 18th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.