Education, Poverty, Political Violence and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?

Alan B. Krueger, Jitka Maleckova

NBER Working Paper No. 9074
Issued in July 2002
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies, Public Economics, Economics of Education

The paper investigates whether there is a causal link between poverty or low education and participation in politically motivated violence and terrorist activities. After presenting a discussion of theoretical issues, we review evidence on the determinants of hate crimes. This literature finds that the occurrence of hate crimes is largely independent of economic conditions. Next we analyze data on support for attacks against Israeli targets from public opinion polls conducted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These polls indicate that support for violent attacks does not decrease among those with higher education and higher living standards. The core contribution of the paper is a statistical analysis of the determinants of participation in Hezbollah militant activities in Lebanon. The evidence we have assembled suggests that having a living standard above the poverty line or a secondary school or higher education is positively associated with participation in Hezbollah. We also find that Israeli Jewish settlers who attacked Palestinians in the West Bank in the early 1980s were overwhelmingly from high-paying occupations. The conclusion speculates on why economic conditions and education are largely unrelated to participation in, and support for, terrorism.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9074

Published: Krueger, Alan B. and Jitka Maleckova. "Education, Poverty And Terrorism: Is There A Causal Connection?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2003, v17(4,Fall), 119-144.

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