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Do Working Men Rebel? Insurgency and Unemployment in Iraq and the Philippines

  • Eli Berman
  • Michael Callen
  • Joseph H. Felter
  • Jacob N. Shapiro

Most aid spending by governments seeking to rebuild social and political order is based on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting potential recruits. The logic is that gainfully employed young men are less likely to participate in political violence, implying a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in locations with active insurgencies. We test that prediction in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines, using survey data on unemployment and two newly-available measures of insurgency: (1) attacks against government and allied forces; and (2) violence that kills civilians. Contrary to the opportunity-cost theory, the data emphatically reject a positive correlation between unemployment and attacks against government and allied forces (p

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15547.

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Date of creation: Nov 2009
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Publication status: published as “Do Working Men Rebel? Unemployment and Insurgency in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines.” (with Jacob Shapiro, Joseph Felter and Michael Callen), Journal of Conflict Resolution , August 2011 vol. 55 no. 4 496-528.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15547
Note: LS POL
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  1. Eli Berman & Jacob N. Shapiro & Joseph H. Felter, 2008. "Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq," NBER Working Papers 14606, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Edward Miguel & Shanker Satyanath & Ernest Sergenti, 2004. "Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict: An Instrumental Variables Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 725-753, August.
  3. repec:hal:journl:hal-00387594 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Raphael, Steven & Winter-Ember, Rudolf, 2001. "Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 259-83, April.
  5. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  6. Oeindrila Dube & Juan F. Vargas, 2013. "Commodity Price Shocks and Civil Conflict: Evidence from Colombia," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 1384-1421.
  7. Jeff Grogger, 1997. "Market Wages and Youth Crime," NBER Working Papers 5983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Tony Bennett & Chris Healy, 2009. "Introduction," Journal of Cultural Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 2(1-2), pages 3-10, July.
  9. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2004. "Greed and Grievance in Civil War," Development and Comp Systems 0409007, EconWPA.
  10. Eli Berman & David D. Laitin, 2008. "Religion, Terrorism and Public Goods: Testing the Club Model," NBER Working Papers 13725, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Eric D. Gould & Bruce A. Weinberg & David B. Mustard, 2002. "Crime Rates And Local Labor Market Opportunities In The United States: 1979-1997," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 45-61, February.
  12. Grossman, Herschel I, 1991. "A General Equilibrium Model of Insurrections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 912-21, September.
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