Weather Effects on Social Movements: Evidence from Washington, D.C., and New York City, 1960–95

Tony Huiquan Zhang Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Abstract

Scholars have been taking the impact of weather on social movements for granted for some time, despite a lack of supporting empirical evidence. This paper takes the topic more seriously, analyzing more than 7000 social movement events and 36 years of weather records in Washington, D.C., and New York City (1960–95). Here, “good weather” is defined as midrange temperature and little to no precipitation. This paper uses negative binomial regression models to predict the number of social movements per day and finds social movements are more likely to happen on good days than bad, with seasonal patterns controlled for. Results from logistic regression models indicate violence occurs more frequently at social movement events when it is warmer. Most interestingly, the effect of weather is more salient when there are more political opportunities and resources available. This paper discusses the implications and suggests future research on weather and social movement studies.

Corresponding author address: Tony Huiquan Zhang, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, 725 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5S2J4, Canada. E-mail: huiquan.zhang@mail.utoronto.ca

Abstract

Scholars have been taking the impact of weather on social movements for granted for some time, despite a lack of supporting empirical evidence. This paper takes the topic more seriously, analyzing more than 7000 social movement events and 36 years of weather records in Washington, D.C., and New York City (1960–95). Here, “good weather” is defined as midrange temperature and little to no precipitation. This paper uses negative binomial regression models to predict the number of social movements per day and finds social movements are more likely to happen on good days than bad, with seasonal patterns controlled for. Results from logistic regression models indicate violence occurs more frequently at social movement events when it is warmer. Most interestingly, the effect of weather is more salient when there are more political opportunities and resources available. This paper discusses the implications and suggests future research on weather and social movement studies.

Corresponding author address: Tony Huiquan Zhang, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, 725 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5S2J4, Canada. E-mail: huiquan.zhang@mail.utoronto.ca
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