Thursday, December 23, 2010

Economist: Poverty Does Not Create Terrorists

Daled Amos

According to the Economist, terrorists are not typically from low income families with poor education. In fact, the results of a number of studies indicate that the cause comes from a different direction altogether:

Social scientists have collected a large amount of data on the socioeconomic background of terrorists. According to a 2008 survey of such studies by Alan Krueger of Princeton University, they have found little evidence that the typical terrorist is unusually poor or badly schooled.

Claude Berrebi of the RAND Corporation compared the characteristics of suicide-bombers recruited by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the West Bank and Gaza with those of the general adult male Palestinian population. Nearly 60% of suicide-bombers had more than a high-school education, compared with less than 15% of the general population. They were less than half as likely to come from an impoverished family as an average adult man from the general population. Mr Krueger carried out a similar exercise in Lebanon by collecting biographical information for Hizbullah militants. They too proved to be better educated and less likely to be from poor families than the general population of the Shia-dominated southern areas of Lebanon from which most came.

There is also no evidence that sympathy for terrorism is greater among deprived people...

...[T]he poorest countries, those with low literacy, or those whose economies were relatively stagnant did not produce more terrorists. When the analysis was restricted to suicide-attacks, there was a statistically significant pattern—but in the opposite direction. Citizens of the poorest countries were the least likely to commit a suicide-attack. The nationalities of all foreign insurgents captured in Iraq between April and October 2005 also produced no evidence that poorer countries produced more insurgents. If anything, there was weak evidence the other way.

So what does terrorism correlate with?
After the detail that the Economist dedicates to debunking the idea that poverty creates terrorists, very little of the article discusses what might be the actual cause:

It may be that a certain level of education makes it more likely that people will become politicised.

And that's it.

Yaacov Lozowick notices that the Economist neglects to address what may be behind the politicization of terrorists:

Alas, however, the good sense at The Economsit goes only so far. While sensibly setting out the case for not expecting economics to motivate terrorism, they don't say what does. Most conspicuously, in the entire worthy article the word "Islamist" doesn't appear once, as far as I can see. Nor any variant of it.

After all, we are talking here about Islamist terrorists, aren't we?

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