A Latent Measure of Mass Threats in Nondemocracies (1960-2018)

Mass threat is a core explanatory concept in comparative politics. Prior research has emphasized the critical role played by mass threats in driving political dynamics associated with authoritarianism, regime change, and redistributive politics. However, existing measures available in the literature suffer from certain limitations and do not fully capture the multifaceted nature of this concept.

I propose a unified and theoretically informed approach to measuring mass threats in autocracies. I collect data on 13 empirical indicators that encompass two fundamental facets of mass threats: grievance and organizational capacity. Utilizing a Bayesian dynamic latent variable approach, I incorporate information on these indicators to generate time-series cross-sectional data of mass threats covering 122 authoritarian countries from 1960 to 2018.

The proposed measurement approach has three advantages. First, the latent measure aligns closely with the ontological nature of mass threats as an unobserved quantity. Second, it bridges the existing divide in the use of mass threats in the literature, providing a framework that unifies both grievance and organizational capacity. Third, this measure not only exhibits a robust correlation with event count measures (e.g., strikes and revolutions) but also possesses the ability to capture unrealized threats, distinguishing itself from those frequency measures that only document observables.

You can access the data here. For further details on the methodology behind this measure, please refer to the working paper titled “A Latent Variable Approach to Measuring Mass Threats in Nondemocracies,” available here.