Sep 30, 2010
Published In: The Journal of Politics, v. 74, no. 1, Jan. 2012, p. 113-128
Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2012
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.