IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

An Economist Looks at Suicide Terrorism


  • Mark Harrison


Suicide terrorism has an economic aspect. The organisation of a suicide mission requires an incentive, a voluntary transaction, and a contract that is enforceable by the parties to it. A terrorist faction that competes for power in a community that is both oppressed and oppressive provides young people with an incentive to invest in an identity that is rendered more valuable by death. Suicide attacks are then the outcome of a voluntary agreement between the faction and the young person to trade life for identity. The institution of the “living martyr†renders the agreement privately enforceable. Thus, suicide terrorism is the outcome of an individual rational choice. There are some implications for counter-measures.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Harrison, 2006. "An Economist Looks at Suicide Terrorism," World Economics, World Economics, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 7(3), pages 1-15, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:wej:wldecn:246

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
    2. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
    3. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
    4. Albert Breton & Gianluigi Galeotti & Pierre Salmon & Ronald Wintrobe, 1995. "Nationalism and Rationality," Post-Print hal-00445587, HAL.
    5. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-440, June.
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:03:p:567-576_10 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Wintrobe,Ronald, 1998. "The Political Economy of Dictatorship," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521583299, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Friedrich Schneider & Tilman Brück & Daniel Meierrieks, 2010. "The Economics of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism: A Survey (Part I)," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1049, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Freytag, Andreas & Krüger, Jens J. & Meierrieks, Daniel & Schneider, Friedrich, 2011. "The origins of terrorism: Cross-country estimates of socio-economic determinants of terrorism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(S1), pages 5-16.
    3. Beckmann, Klaus, 2007. "Jon Elster und das Zeitinkonsistenz-Problem," Discussion Papers 2007-21, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Chair of Economic Ethics.
    4. Ismail, Aisha & Amjad, Shehla, 2014. "Determinants of terrorism in Pakistan: An empirical investigation," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 320-331.
    5. Apolte, Thomas, 2017. "I hope I die before I get old: The supply side of the market for suicide bombers," CIW Discussion Papers 1/2017, University of Münster, Center for Interdisciplinary Economics (CIW).
    6. Harrison, Mark, 2013. "The Economics of Coercion and Conflict: an Introduction," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 151, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wej:wldecn:246. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ed Jones). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.