Just because there’s a protest-worthy cause doesn’t mean that a protest movement will, in fact, emerge. Researchers who study social movements have theorized that such mobilization tends to occur when members of a community have the right kind of political opportunity or when they have access to critical resources.

Sociologists Rachel Wright of Stanford University and Hilary Schaffer Boudet of Oregon State University have found a novel way to put those theories to the test. First of all,...

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