Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Jaroslav Tir

Second Advisor

David Bearce

Third Advisor

Aysegul Aydin

Fourth Advisor

Megan Shannon

Fifth Advisor

Erica Chenoweth


This dissertation examines the reasons that some non-state actors choose to engage in nonviolent resistance while others, with similar goals, engage in violent rebellion. I then look why, among groups that do use violence, some see longer and more intense conflicts than others. I argue that the variance in the potential that these groups have to grow in strength during the process of fighting has an impact on all three of these variables, with groups that have less potential being more likely to use violence, and fighting longer and more intense conflicts. I test my hypotheses quantitatively with several indicators of potential rebel strength and new data on the economic standing and level of education of the group membership. I find that the economic standing and education level of the group membership are strong negative predictors of the use of violence. The impact of ethnic groups size, territorial control, access to natural resources, and third party support are more nuanced. I then test these hypotheses qualitatively with case studies involving Serbia in the 1990s and the Arab Spring in the 2010s.