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Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers

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  • Efraim Benmelech
  • Claude Berrebi

Abstract

This paper studies the relation between the human capital of suicide bombers and the 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. To validate the theoretical predictions and estimate the returns to human capital in suicide bombing, we use a unique dataset detailing the biographies of Palestinian suicide bombers, the targets they attack, and the number of people that they kill and injure. 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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:3:p:223-238
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.3.223
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.21.3.223
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alan B. Krueger & Jitka Maleckova, 2003. "Education, Poverty and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 119-144, Fall.
    2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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.
    4. Edward L. Glaeser, 2005. "The Political Economy of Hatred," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(1), pages 45-86.
    5. John Helliwell, 2007. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 81(3), pages 455-496, May.
    6. Efraim Benmelech & Claude Berrebi, 2007. "Attack Assignments in Terror Organizations and The Productivity of Suicide Bombers," NBER Working Papers 12910, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Iannaccone, Laurence R, 1992. "Sacrifice and Stigma: Reducing Free-Riding in Cults, Communes, and Other Collectives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 271-291, April.
    8. Eli Berman & David Laitin, 2005. "Hard Targets: Theory and Evidence on Suicide Attacks," NBER Working Papers 11740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Claude Berrebi & Darius Lakdawalla, 2007. "How Does Terrorism Risk Vary Across Space And Time? An Analysis Based On The Israeli Experience," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 113-131.
    10. Berrebi Claude, 2007. "Evidence about the Link Between Education, Poverty and Terrorism among Palestinians," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 1-38, December.
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