Revolution empirics: predicting the Arab Spring


The paper examines whether the Arab Spring phenomenon was predictable by complete elimination in the dispersion of core demands for better governance, more jobs, and stable consumer prices. A methodological innovation of the generalized methods of moments is employed to assess the feasibility and timing of the revolution. The empirical evidence reveals that from a projection date of 2007, the Arab Spring was foreseeable between 2011 and 2012. The paper contributes at the same time to the empirics of predicting revolutions and the scarce literature on modeling the future of socioeconomic events. Caveats and cautions are discussed.

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  1. 1.

    For example, “The reader should understand that this is merely an expositional device. We would not wish to deny that the interest elasticity and anticipatory error mechanisms have some validity. But the spirit of this paper is that those mechanisms do not seem important enough to explain the deep recessions that are apparently caused by central bank policy” (Blinder 1987, p. 2).

  2. 2.

    “In order to make credit rationing mechanism stand out in bold relief, most other channels of monetary policy (such as interest elasticities and anticipatory errors) are banished from the model” (Blinder 1987, p. 2).

  3. 3.

    MENA: Middle East and North Africa; ME: Middle East; NA: North Africa; MENASU: MENA short unrests; MENALU: MENA long unrests; MENAU: MENA unrests. Classification of degree of unrest (short unrest or long unrest) is based on exploratory evidence and qualitative content analysis on the severity of country-specific internal strife.

  4. 4.

    “We also demonstrate that more plausible results can be achieved using a system GMM estimator suggested by Arellano and Bover (1995) and Blundell and Bond (1998). The system estimator exploits an assumption about the initial conditions to obtain moment conditions that remain informative even for persistent series and it has been shown to perform well in simulations. The necessary restrictions on the initial conditions are potentially consistent with standard growth frameworks and appear to be both valid and highly informative in our empirical application. Hence we recommend this system GMM estimator for consideration in subsequent empirical growth research” (Bond et al. 2001, pp. 3–4).

  5. 5.

    Accordingly, we have six two-year non-overlapping intervals: 1996; 1997–1998; 1999–2000; 2001–2002; 2003–2004; and 2005–2006. The first value is short by one year due to issues in degrees of freedom.


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The authors are highly indebted to the editor and referees for useful comments.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Simplice A. Asongu.


Appendix 1

See Table 6.

Table 6 Summary statistics

Appendix 2

See Table 7.

Table 7 Correlation matrix

Appendix 3

See Table 8.

Table 8 Variable definitions

Appendix 4

See Table 9.

Table 9 Fundamental panels

Appendix 5

See Table 10.

Table 10 Correlation analysis for governance variables

Appendix 6

See Table 11.

Table 11 Summary of robustness checks on governance variables

Appendix 7

See Table 12.

Table 12 Absolute convergence

Appendix 8

See Table 13.

Table 13 Conditional convergence

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Asongu, S.A., Nwachukwu, J.C. Revolution empirics: predicting the Arab Spring. Empir Econ 51, 439–482 (2016).

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  • Arab Spring
  • Political instability
  • Timing
  • Economic growth

JEL Classification

  • N17
  • O11
  • O20
  • O47
  • P52