NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Attack Assignments in Terror Organizations and The Productivity of Suicide Bombers

Efraim Benmelech, Claude Berrebi

NBER Working Paper No. 12910
Issued in February 2007
NBER Program(s):   LS   POL

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12910

Published: Benmelech, Efraim and Claude Berrebi. “Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers," Journal of Economic Perspectives 21, 3 (2007): 223-238.

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