State repression is used in many countries by unpopular regimes. Why does repression deter dissent in some cases, but encourage it in others? I argue that repression is most effective against the poor because they are both physically and psychologically more vulnerable to violence. I test this prediction using data on pre-election repression in Zimbabwe and two empirical strategies at the constituency and individual level that draw on exogenous variation in poverty and exposure to repression. Across multiple analyses, I find evidence that the poor are less likely to dissent after repression. I also rule out several important alternative explanations including changes in preferences, differences in the type of repression, or differences in the effectiveness of clientelism. These results may help explain why poverty is associated with authoritarian, non-responsive institutions, and why we see little redistribution to the poor in non-democratic states.
Lauren is an assistant professor of political science at UC Davis. Lauren's research aims to understand how people behave in violent or coercive environments. Her primary research topics include why people participate in violence and how exposure to violence affects people in the short and long term. Much of her past research and policy work is in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Zimbabwe. Prior to coming to Davis, she was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University and a non-resident postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Global Development. She completed her PhD in political science with distinction in 2016 at Columbia University.