Public Choice

, Volume 175, Issue 1–2, pp 63–93 | Cite as

Youth bulges, insurrections and labor-market restrictions

  • Thomas Apolte
  • Lena Gerling


This paper analyzes the link between large youth cohorts and violent conflicts when labor-market restrictions are present. Such restrictions are expected to limit the youth cohort’s access to income opportunities in the formal economy, and thus lower the youth-specific opportunity cost of insurrection activities. We develop a theoretical model of insurrection markets and integrate the youth cohort’s relative size. In equilibrium, a binding labor-market constraint interacts with the youth bulge in determining the level of insurrection activities within the society. We test the implications of our model on a sample of 135 non-OECD countries in the post-Cold War period and find the effect of the youth cohort’s relative size on conflict onsets to be moderated by changes in the labor-market conditions as measured by unemployment rates. Generally, the results provide evidence that the underlying institutional setting shapes the conflict potential inherent in a given demographic structure.


Youth bulges Demography Insurrections Political economy of revolutions 

JEL Classification

H56 J10 J22 P16 



We are grateful to Roger Congleton and Randall Holcombe for helpful discussions at the 2016 Meeting of the Public Choice Society, as well as to the anonymous referees and the editor in charge of our submission, William Shughart II, for unusually constructive comments. We also thank Rahel Schomaker and Dirk Wentzel for insightful discussions at early stages of the project. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2016 Meeting of the European Public Choice Society and the 2015 Meeting of the German Economic Association.

Supplementary material

11127_2018_514_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (223 kb)
An online appendix of additional empirical results is available from the corresponding author's website ( (PDF 223 kb)


  1. Acemoglu, D. (2006). A simple model of inefficient institutions. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 108(4), 515–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Acemoglu, D., & Robinson, J. A. (2000). Democratization or repression? European Economic Review, 44(4), 683–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Acemoglu, D., & Robinson, J. A. (2001). A theory of political transitions. American Economic Review, 91(4), 938–963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Acemoglu, D., & Robinson, J. A. (2006). Economic origins of dictatorship and democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Ai, C., & Norton, E. C. (2003). Interaction terms in logit and probit models. Economics Letters, 80(1), 123–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Angrist, J. D., & Krueger, A. B. (1999). Empirical strategies in labor economics. In O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (Eds.), Handbook of labor economics (Vol. 3, pp. 1277–1366). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.Google Scholar
  7. Angrist, J. D., & Pischke, J.-S. (2008). Mostly harmless econometrics: An empiricist’s companion. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Apolte, T. (2012). Why is there no revolution in North Korea? Public Choice, 150(3–4), 561–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Arellano, M., & Bond, S. (1991). Some tests of specification for panel data: Monte Carlo evidence and an application to employment equations. The Review of Economic Studies, 58(2), 277–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Austin, L. (2011). The politics of youth bulge: From Islamic activists to democratic reform in the Middle East and North Africa. SAIS Review of International Affairs, 31(2), 81–96.Google Scholar
  11. Banks, A. S., & Wilson, K. A. (2015). Cross-national time-series data archive. Jerusalem: Databanks International. Online database, available from Accessed 18 Nov 2015.
  12. Barakat, B. & Urdal, H. (2009). Breaking the waves? Does education mediate the relationship between youth bulges and political violence? World Bank Policy. Research Working Paper No. 5114. Online available from
  13. Barro, R., & Lee, J.-W. (2013). A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950–2010. Journal of Development Economics, 104, 184–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bazzi, S., & Blattman, C. (2014). Economic shocks and conflict: Evidence from commodity prices. American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 6(4), 1–38.Google Scholar
  15. Berman, E., Callen, M., Felter, J. H., & Shapiro, J. N. (2011). Do working men rebel? Insurgency and unemployment in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 55(4), 496–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bhuller, M., Mogstad, M., & Salvanes, K. G. (2014). Life cycle earnings, education premiums and internal rates of return. NBER Working Paper 20250. Online available from Accessed 22 May 2016.
  17. Blattman, C., & Miguel, E. (2010). Civil war. Journal of Economic Literature, 48(1), 3–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Bloom, D. E., & Williamson, J. G. (1998). Demographic transitions and economic miracles in emerging Asia. The World Bank Economic Review, 12(3), 419–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Boix, C., & Svolik, M. W. (2013). The foundation of limited authoritarian government: Institutions, commitment, and power-sharing in dictatorships. The Journal of Politics, 75(2), 300–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Bruno, G. S. F. (2005). Approximating the bias of the LSDV estimator for dynamic unbalanced panel data models. Economics Letters, 87(3), 361–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Burke, M., Hsiang, S. M., & Miguel, E. (2014). Climate and conflict. NBER Working Paper 20598. Online available from Accessed 7 July 2015.
  22. Caldwell, C. (2007). Youth and war, a deadly duo. The Financial Times, January 6.Google Scholar
  23. Campante, F. R., & Chor, D. (2012). Why was the Arab world poised for revolution? Schooling, economic opportunities, and the Arab spring. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26, 167–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Carter, D. B., & Signorino, C. S. (2010). Back to the future: Modeling time dependence in binary data. Political Analysis, 18(3), 271–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Cervellati, M., Fortunato, P., & Sunde, U. (2014). Violence during democratization and the quality of democratic institutions. European Economic Review, 66, 226–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Cheibub, J. A., Gandhi, J., & Vreeland, J. R. (2010). Democracy and dictatorship revisited. Public Choice, 143(1–2), 67–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Collier, P., & Hoeffler, A. (2004). Greed and grievance in civil war. Oxford Economic Papers, 56(4), 563–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Collier, P., Hoeffler, A., & Rohner, D. (2009). Beyond greed and grievance: Feasibility and civil war. Oxford Economic Papers, 61(1), 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Defoe, I. N., Dubas, J. S., Figner, B., & van Aken, M. A. G. (2015). A meta-analysis on age differences in risky decision making: Adolescents versus children and adults. Psychological Bulletin, 141(1), 48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Dorsch, M. T., & Maarek, P. (2015). Inefficient predation and political transitions. European Journal of Political Economy, 37, 37–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Dreher, A., Minasyan, A., & Nunnenkamp, P. (2015). Government ideology in donor and recipient countries: Does ideological proximity matter for the effectiveness of aid? European Economic Review, 79, 80–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Easterlin, R. A. (1987). Birth and fortune: The impact of numbers on personal welfare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  33. Fearon, J. D., & Laitin, D. D. (2003). Ethnicity, insurgency, and civil war. American Political Science Review, 97(1), 75–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fuller, G. E. (1995). The demographic backdrop to ethnic conflict: A geographic overview. In C. I. Unit (Ed.), The challenge of ethnic conflict to national and international order in the 1990s (pp. 151–154). Washington, DC: CIA.Google Scholar
  35. Fuller, G. E. (2003). The youth factor: The new demographics of the Middle East and the implications for US Policy. Washington: Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  36. Furnham, A. (2015). Young people’s understanding of society. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Gates, S. (2002). Recruitment and allegiance: The microfoundations of rebellion. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 46(1), 111–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gleditsch, N. P., Wallensteen, P., Eriksson, M., Sollenberg, M., & Strand, H. (2002). Armed conflict 1946–2001: A new dataset. Journal of Peace Research, 39(5), 615–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goemans, H. E., Gleditsch, K. S., & Chiozza, G. (2009). Introducing Archigos: A dataset of political leaders. Journal of Peace Research, 46(2), 269–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Goldstone, J. A. (1991). Revolution and rebellion in the early modern world. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  41. Goldstone, J. A. (2002). Population and security: How demographic change can lead to violent conflict. Journal of International Affairs, 56(1), 3–21.Google Scholar
  42. Grossman, H. I. (1991). A general equilibrium model of insurrections. The American Economic Review, 81, 912–921.Google Scholar
  43. Grossman, H. I. (1999). Kleptocracy and revolutions. Oxford Economic Papers, 51(2), 267–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Gwartney, J., Lawson, R., & Hall, J. (2016). Economic freedom of the world: 2016 annual report. Vancouver: The Fraser Institute. Online available from Accessed 16 Nov 2016.
  45. Heinsohn, G. (2007). Why Gaza is fertile ground for angry young men. Financial Times, June 14.Google Scholar
  46. Heinsohn, G. (2009). Afghanistan’s disposable sons. The Wall Street Journal, September 17.Google Scholar
  47. Heritage Foundation. (2016). Index of economic freedom. Washington D.C.: The Heritage Foundation. Online database, available from Accessed 6 May 2017.
  48. Heston, A., Summers, R., & Aten, B. (2012). Penn World Table version 7.1. Center for international comparisons of production, income and prices at the University of Pennsylvania. Online database, available from Accessed 19 Feb 2018.
  49. Hillman, A. L. (2010). Expressive behavior in economics and politics. European Journal of Political Economy, 26(4), 403–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kiviet, J. F. (1995). On bias, inconsistency, and efficiency of various estimators in dynamic panel data models. Journal of Econometrics, 68, 53–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Korenman, S. & Neumark, D. (1997). Cohort crowding and youth labor market: A cross-national analysis. NBER Working Paper 6031. Online available from Accessed 22 April 2014.
  52. Krieger, T., & Meierrieks, D. (2011). What causes terrorism? Public Choice, 147(1–2), 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Krueger, A. B. (2008). What makes a terrorist: Economics and the roots of terrorism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Kuran, T. (1989). Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution. Public Choice, 61(1), 41–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Kurrild-Klitgaard, P. (2003). The paradox of rebellion (pp. 728–731). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  56. Lichbach, M. I. (1995). The Rebel’s dilemma. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Marshall, M. G., Gurr, T. R., & Jaggers, K. (2016). Polity IV project: Political regime characteristics and transitions, 1800–2016, dataset users’ manual. Vienna: Center for Systemic Peace. Online available from Accessed 10 May 2017.
  58. McGrath, L. F. (2015). Estimating onsets of binary events in panel data. Political Analysis, 23(4), 534–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Mesquida, C. G., & Wiener, N. I. (1999). Male age composition and severity of conflicts. Politics and the Life Sciences, 18(2), 181–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Moller, H. (1968). Youth as a force in the modern world. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 10(03), 237–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Niang, S. R. (2010). Terrorizing ages: The effects of youth densities and the relative youth cohort size in the likelihood and pervasiveness of terrorism. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 2010, Chicago.Google Scholar
  62. Nickell, S. (1981). Biases in dynamic models with fixed effects. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society, 49(6), 1417–1426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Nizalova, O. Y., & Murtazashvili, I. (2016). Exogenous treatment and endogenous factors: Vanishing of omitted variable bias on the interaction term. Journal of Econometric Methods, 5(1), 71–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Nordås, R., & Davenport, C. (2013). Fight the youth: Youth bulges and state repression. American Journal of Political Science, 57(4), 926–940.Google Scholar
  65. Nunn, N., & Qian, N. (2014). US food aid and civil conflict. The American Economic Review, 104(6), 1630–1666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Olson, M. (1965/1971). The logic of collective action: Public goods and the theory of groups. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Pharo, H., Sim, C., Graham, M., Gross, J., & Hayne, H. (2011). Risky business: Executive function, personality, and reckless behavior during adolescence and emerging adulthood. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125(6), 970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sageman, M. (2004). Understanding terror networks. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Samuelson, P. A. (1958). An exact consumption-loan model of interest with or without the social contrivance of money. The Journal of Political Economy, 66, 467–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Schomaker, R. (2013). Youth bulges, poor institutional quality and missing migration opportunities—Triggers of and potential counter-measures for terrorism in MENA. Topics in Middle Eastern and North African Economies, 15(1), 116–140.Google Scholar
  71. Shadmehr, M., & Haschke, P. (2016). Youth, revolution, and repression. Economic Inquiry, 54(2), 778–793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Stephan, M. J., & Chenoweth, E. (2008). Why civil resistance works: The strategic logic of nonviolent conflict. International Security, 33(1), 7–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Themnér, L., & Wallensteen, P. (2013). Armed conflicts, 1946–2012. Journal of Peace Research, 50(4), 509–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tullock, G. (1971). The paradox of revolution. Public Choice, 11(1), 89–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Tullock, G. (1974). The social dilemma: The economics of war and revolution. Blacksburg: University Publications.Google Scholar
  76. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. (2015). World population prospects: The 2015 revision, methodology of the United Nations population estimates and projections. Online available from Accessed 11 Oct 2016.
  77. Urdal, H. (2004). The devil in the demographics: The effect of youth bulges on domestic armed conflict, 1950–2000. World Bank Social Development Papers No. 14. Online available from Accessed 25 Nov 2013.
  78. Urdal, H. (2006). A clash of generations? Youth bulges and political violence. International Studies Quarterly, 50(3), 607–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Wall, E. (2006). The terrorism labor market. Economics Department Honors Thesis, Economics, Holy Cross University Worcester, MA.Google Scholar
  80. Whelton, C. (2007). A demographic theory of war: Population, power, and the slightly weird ideas of Gunnar Heinsohn. Weekly Standard, 6. Online available from Accessed 19 Feb 2018.
  81. Wintrobe, R. (2006). Extremism, suicide terror, and authoritarianism. Public Choice, 128(1–2), 169–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. World Bank. (2016). World development indicators. Washington, DC: The World Bank Group. Online database, available from Accessed 19 May 2016.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Interdisciplinary EconomicsUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

Personalised recommendations