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Attack Assignments in Terror Organizations and The Productivity of Suicide Bombers

Author

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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12910
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Edward L. Glaeser, 2005. "The Political Economy of Hatred," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(1), pages 45-86.
    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. repec:pri:indrel:dsp01bk1289895 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Eli Berman & David Laitin, 2005. "Hard Targets: Theory and Evidence on Suicide Attacks," NBER Working Papers 11740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Claude Berrebi & Esteban F. Klor, 2006. "On Terrorism and Electoral Outcomes," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 50(6), pages 899-925, December.
    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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Matovic, Violeta & Wörgötter, Andreas, 2007. "How does the Economy Matter for Terrorism," MPRA Paper 32968, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2007.
    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. Sandeep Baliga & Tomas Sjostrom, 2012. "The Strategy of Manipulating Conflict," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2897-2922, October.
    6. Matthew A. Hanson, 2007. "The Economics of Roadside Bombs," Working Papers 68, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
    7. Matthew Hanson & Martin Schmidt, 2011. "The impact of Coalition offensive operations on the Iraqi insurgency," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(18), pages 2251-2265.
    8. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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