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Ph.D candidate, Department of Economics, UC Berkeley
Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
Organized groups of individuals challenging the status quo are critical for institutional change and economic development patterns. This paper studies the 2011 student movement in Chile, the largest protest mobilization in the country’s history, in which hundreds of thousands of students skipped school to protest with the goal of reforming the educational system. Using administrative data on millions of students’ daily school attendance decisions on protest and non-protest days, a large network composed by the lifetime history of classmates, and differential network exposure to the first national protest, González employs an instrumental variables approach to test how networks affect protest behavior. The main finding is that individual participation follows a threshold model of collective behavior: students were influenced by their networks to skip school on protest days only when more than 40 percent of the members of their networks also skipped school. Additional findings show that protest participation imposed significant educational costs on students and helped to shift votes towards non-traditional opposition parties. Taken together, results indicate that networks amplify the effect of protests in non-linear ways with potentially significant consequences for institutional change.