Young and Restless Can Be a Volatile Mix

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Science  29 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6042, pp. 552-554
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6042.552

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The Arab Spring, some scholars point out, occurred at a time when Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and other countries had a large share of young people in the adult population. In this interpretation, a so-called youth bulge, or a large proportion of adults concentrated in the 15-to-29 age group, is a good predictor of conflict and instability. The theory makes intuitive sense—the foot soldiers of protests and insurrections are, after all, typically young. Proponents also make their case through historical examples and predictive models. Others contend evidence is limited, outbreaks of unrest depend on a slew of other factors, and a large number of young adults may be an asset as well as a threat.