Social Protest in Times of Social Distancing: Black Lives Matter and COVID-19

76 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2021

See all articles by Vladimir Avetian

Vladimir Avetian

Sciences Po

Annalí Casanueva

Paris School of Economics (PSE)

Sulin Sardoschau

Humboldt University - Department of Economics

Kritika Saxena

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID)

Date Written: April 22, 2021

Abstract

Why did the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement gain unprecedented momentum in the midst of a pandemic? In this paper, we use county-day-level variation in the timing and magnitude of exposure to COVID-19 to causally identify its effect on protests. Using super spreader events as a source of plausible exogenous variation, we find that counties that are more affected by the pandemic also experience an increase in protest behavior. We present several alternative identification strategies and a battery of robustness checks to confirm the validity of our results. We distinguish empirically between various mechanisms: availability of resources, opportunity costs of protesting, salience of racial inequality, and increased signaling value of protest. Our evidence suggests that the pandemic has mobilized new allies that join the movement for the first time during the pandemic. We can attribute this to a rise in the salience of racial inequalities in the United States. At the same time, counties that traditionally engaged in protest (urban counties with a large Black population shares) respond less to an increase in COVID-19 exposure as they are also the ones most severely affected by the pandemic and caught in what we call the "protest poverty trap".

Keywords: BLM, COVID-19, protest

JEL Classification: P16, D7

Suggested Citation

Avetian, Vladimir and Casanueva, Annalí and Sardoschau, Sulin and Saxena, Kritika, Social Protest in Times of Social Distancing: Black Lives Matter and COVID-19 (April 22, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3831819 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3831819

Vladimir Avetian

Sciences Po ( email )

28 Rue des Saint-Peres
Paris, Paris 75006
France

Annalí Casanueva

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014
France

Sulin Sardoschau (Contact Author)

Humboldt University - Department of Economics ( email )

Unter den Linden 6
Berlin, AK Berlin 10099
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/view/sulinsardoschau/home

Kritika Saxena

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) ( email )

PO Box 136
Geneva, CH-1211
Switzerland

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