Poverty and Terrorism
A new article in The Journal of Politics (gated) — ”Economic Conditions and the Quality of Suicide Terrorism" (draft 2009, ungated) by Benmelecha, Berrebia, and Klora — examines one of the connections between poverty and terrorism:
This article analyzes the link between economic conditions and the quality of suicide terrorism. While the existing empirical literature shows that poverty and economic conditions are not correlated with the quantity of terror, theory predicts that poverty and poor economic conditions may affect the quality of terror. Poor economic conditions may lead more able and better-educated individuals to participate in terror attacks, allowing terror organizations to send better-qualified terrorists to more complex, higher-impact terror missions. Using the universe of Palestinian suicide terrorists who acted against Israeli targets in 2000–06, we provide evidence of the correlation between economic conditions, the characteristics of suicide terrorists, and the targets they attack. High levels of unemployment enable terror organizations to recruit better educated, more mature, and more experienced suicide terrorists, who in turn attack more important Israeli targets.
There’s also this piece, posted yesterday by Brad Parks at the Monkey Cage, which looks at another one of the connections between poverty and terrorism:
Since 9/11, the USG has promoted foreign assistance as a useful tool for combating global terrorism. Indeed, the case for foreign aid is often made on the basis of its presumed efficacy inpreventing terrorism. But, until recently, the evidence supporting these claims was rather flimsy.
Formal models of the aid-terrorism relationship suggest that aid may prevent terrorism when it is targeted in ways that promote human capital through education (Azam and Thelen 2008; Buenode Mesquita 2005). However, many of these theoretical arguments have not been subjected to careful empirical scrutiny because of insufficiently granular data.
A recent article by Joseph Young and Michael Findley seeks to correct these weaknesses. AidData’s detailed activity coding methodology allows the authors to disaggregate aid figures by project purpose. In their analysis, Young and Findley include separate measures of education aid to test the specific argument that aid targeted to education may prevent terrorism. They are also able to examine the potentially substitutable effects of general budget aid, health aid, and aid tied to counterterrorism.
Here is a brief summary of their findings:
Does foreign aid reduce terrorism? We examine whether foreign aid decreases terrorism by analyzing whether aid targeted toward certain sectors is more effective than others. We use the most comprehensive databases on foreign aid and transnational terrorism—AidData andITERATE—to provide a series of statistical tests. Our results show that foreign aid decreases terrorism especially when targeted toward sectors, such as education, health, civil society, and conflict prevention. These sector-level results indicate that foreign aid can be an effective instrument in fighting terrorism if allocated in appropriate ways.
HT: Michael Tofias.