Attack Assignments in Terror Organizations and The Productivity of Suicide Bombers
This paper studies the relation between human capital of suicide bombers and outcomes of their suicide attacks. We argue that human capital is an important factor in the production of terrorism, and that if terrorists behave rationally we should observe that more able suicide bombers are assigned to more important targets. We use a unique data set detailing the biographies of Palestinian suicide bombers, the targets they attack, and the number of people that they kill and injure to validate the theoretical predictions and estimate the returns to human capital in suicide bombing. Our empirical analysis suggests that older and more educated suicide bombers are being assigned by their terror organization to more important targets. We find that more educated and older suicide bombers are less likely to fail in their mission, and are more likely to cause increased casualties when they attack.
Published: Benmelech, Efraim and Claude Berrebi. “Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers," Journal of Economic Perspectives 21, 3 (2007): 223-238.