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The formation of collective grievances

Although the discrepancy between objective and perceived inequalities has been recognized in the literature, most studies do not distinguish between objective measures and subjective experiences. This means that collective grievances that influence individuals’ decisions to mobilize for conflict are not captured well in previous analyses. In this article, I draw on data from the Afrobarometer surveys -- which include information on 79,914 individuals belonging to 239 ethnic groups living in 30 African countries -- to test a number of hypotheses about the relationship between individual and group characteristics and collective grievances. These results suggest that individual characteristics are as important, if not more important, than group characteristics in determining how individuals form their perceptions of collective grievances. In other words, perceptions are not just based on groups’ actual situation, but are to a large extent shaped by individuals’ backgrounds. In addition, the findings demonstrate that the salience of ethnic identity is intricately tied to how perceptions of collective grievances are formed.

Ludovico Alcorta
Radboud University


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