Education, Poverty, Political Violence and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?
The paper investigates whether there is a causal link between poverty or low education and participation in politically motivated violence and/or terrorist activities. After presenting a discussion of theoretical issues, we review evidence on the determinants of hate crimes, which are closely related to terrorism. This literature finds that the occurrence of hate crimes is largely independent of economic conditions. Next we analyze data on support for attacks against Israeli targets from public opinion polls conducted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in December 2001. These polls indicate that support for violent attacks does not decrease among those with higher education and higher living standards. The core contribution of the paper is a statistical analysis of the determinants of participation in Hezbollah militant activities in Lebanon in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The evidence that we have assembled suggests that having a living standard above the poverty line or a secondary school or higher education is positively associated with participation in Hezbollah. We also find that Israeli Jewish settlers who terrorized Palestinians in the West Bank in the early 1980s were overwhelmingly from high paying occupations. Although our results are tentative and exploratory, they suggest that neither poverty nor education has a direct, causal impact on politically motivated violence and terrorism. The conclusion speculates on why economic conditions and education are largely unrelated to participation in, and support for, terrorism.
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