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Attack Assignments in Terror Organizations and The Productivity of Suicide Bombers

  • Efraim Benmelech
  • Claude Berrebi

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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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12910.pdf
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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
Note: LS POL
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. John F. Helliwell, 2004. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," NBER Working Papers 10896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  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. Edward L. Glaeser, 2005. "The Political Economy of Hatred," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(1), pages 45-86, January.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
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