Evidence About the Link Between Education, Poverty and Terrorism Among Palestinians


The primary goal of this paper is to investigate whether participation in terrorist activity
can be linked to ignorance (measured through schooling) or to economic desperation
(measured through poverty on the individual’s level and various economic indicators on
the societal level) using newly culled data of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
terrorist cells. This paper performs a statistical analysis of the determinants of
participation in Hamas and PIJ terrorist activities in Israel from the late 1980’s to the
present, as well as a time series analysis of terrorist attacks in Israel with relation to
economic conditions. The resulting evidence on the individual level suggests that both
higher standards of living and higher levels of education are positively associated with
participation in Hamas or PIJ. With regard to the societal economic condition, no
sustainable link between terrorism and poverty and education could be found, which I
interpret to mean that there is either no link or a very weak indirect link. Special attention
is given to the suicide bomber phenomenon, and the analysis of the determinants of
becoming a suicide bomber provides additional intriguing findings. In contrast with the
“classic” characteristics of a suicidal individual (Hamermesh and Soss, 1974), suicide
bombers tend to be of higher economic status and higher educational attainment than
their counterparts in the population. Suicide bombers, however, come from lower socioeconomic
groups when compared to other, non-suicidal, terrorists.

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