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Attack Assignments in Terror Organizations and The Productivity of Suicide Bombers

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  • Efraim Benmelech
  • Claude Berrebi

Abstract

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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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12910.

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Date of creation: Feb 2007
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Publication status: published as Benmelech, Efraim and Claude Berrebi. “Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers," Journal of Economic Perspectives 21, 3 (2007): 223-238.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12910

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References

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  1. Claude Berrebi, 2003. "Evidence About the Link Between Education, Poverty and Terrorism Among Palestinians," Working Papers 856, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. John Helliwell, 2007. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 81(3), pages 455-496, May.
  3. Edward L. Glaeser, 2005. "The Political Economy of Hatred," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(1), pages 45-86, January.
  4. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  5. Eli Berman, 2003. "Hamas, Taliban and the Jewish Underground: An Economist's View of Radical Religious Militias," NBER Working Papers 10004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Eli Berman & David Laitin, 2005. "Hard Targets: Theory and Evidence on Suicide Attacks," NBER Working Papers 11740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Kydd, Andrew & Walter, Barbara F., 2002. "Sabotaging the Peace: The Politics of Extremist Violence," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(02), pages 263-296, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Sandeep Baliga & Tomas Sjostrom, 2012. "The Strategy of Manipulating Conflict," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2897-2922, October.
  2. Matovic, Violeta & Wörgötter, Andreas, 2007. "How does the Economy Matter for Terrorism," MPRA Paper 32968, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2007.
  3. Matthew A. Hanson & Martin B. Schmidt, 2007. "The Impact of Coalition Offensive Operations on the Iraqi Insurgency," Working Papers 56, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  4. Arbel, Yuval & Ben-Shahar, Danny & Gabriel, Stuart & Tobol, Yossef, 2010. "The local cost of terror: Effects of the second Palestinian Intifada on Jerusalem house prices," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 415-426, November.
  5. Efraim Benmelech & Claude Berrebi, 2007. "Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 223-238, Summer.
  6. Berman, Eli & Laitin, David D., 2008. "Religion, terrorism and public goods: Testing the club model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1942-1967, October.
  7. Matthew A. Hanson, 2007. "The Economics of Roadside Bombs," Working Papers 68, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.

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