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What Makes a Terrorist:
Economics and the Roots of Terrorism
Alan B. Krueger

Hardcover | 2007 | This edition is out of print | ISBN: 9780691134383


Many popular ideas about terrorists and why they seek to harm us are fueled by falsehoods and misinformation. Leading politicians and scholars have argued that poverty and lack of education breed terrorism, despite the wealth of evidence showing that most terrorists come from middle-class, and often college-educated, backgrounds. In What Makes a Terrorist, Alan Krueger argues that if we are to correctly assess the root causes of terrorism and successfully address the threat, we must think more like economists do.

Krueger is an influential economist who has applied rigorous statistical analysis to a range of tough issues, from the minimum wage and education to the occurrence of hate crimes. In this book, he explains why our tactics in the fight against terrorism must be based on more than anecdote and speculation. Krueger closely examines the factors that motivate individuals to participate in terrorism, drawing inferences from terrorists' own backgrounds and the economic, social, and political conditions in the societies from which they come. He describes which countries are the most likely breeding grounds for terrorists, and which ones are most likely to be their targets. Krueger addresses the economic and psychological consequences of terrorism. He puts the terrorist threat squarely into perspective, revealing how our nation's sizeable economy is diverse and resilient enough to withstand the comparatively limited effects of most terrorist strikes. And he calls on the media to be more responsible in reporting on terrorism.

What Makes a Terrorist brings needed clarity to one of the greatest challenges of our time.


"What are the individual and societal causes of terrorism? The book's great strength is its focus on new sources of data examined in new ways. The most compelling analysis in the book is of biographical information on operatives from Hezbollah and Hamas. This is a substantial contribution, offering insight into who becomes a terrorist and, as important, pushing terrorism studies in a productive new direction, toward microlevel data. The book provides a valuable service in dispelling the stereotype of the poor, ignorant terrorist."--Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, Science

"It seems universally obvious that poverty and poor education breed terrorism. But it's wrong.... [Alan Krueger] went in search of evidence for the terrorism part of the proposition and found next to none. He has set out his findings in What Makes A Terrorist."--Peter Martin, Canberra Times

"This new book by Alan Krueger, full of first-rate empirical work, punctures many myths about terrorism."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"[Krueger] seeks to put the risks Americans face from terrorism into 'proper perspective' with his unique book."--John McCaslin, Washington Times

"What Makes a Terrorist brings together disparate data, such as academic studies and government reports, arraying them into a concise, accessible argument against the notion that we can defeat terrorism through aid and education. While Krueger is careful to affirm that these are useful in combating many social ills, he is adamant that terrorism is not one of them. He offers skilled analysis to show that an aggressive foreign policy based on this fallacious assumption has cost several nations dearly and also warns that continuing along this course may provoke further terrorist acts."--Tony Azios, Christian Science Monitor

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File created: 7/31/2015

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