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Poverty, Political Freedom, and the Roots of Terrorism

Alberto Abadie

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

October 2004

KSG Working Paper No. RWP04-043

This article provides an empirical investigation of the determinants of terrorism at the country level. In contrast with the previous literature on this subject, which focuses on transnational terrorism only, I use a new measure of terrorism that encompasses both domestic and transnational terrorism. In line with the results of some recent studies, this article shows that terrorist risk is not significantly higher for poorer countries, once the effects of other country-specific characteristics such as the level of political freedom are taken into account. Political freedom is shown to explain terrorism, but it does so in a non-monotonic way: countries in some intermediate range of political freedom are shown to be more prone to terrorism than countries with high levels of political freedom or countries with highly authoritarian regimes. This result suggests that, as experienced recently in Iraq and previously in Spain and Russia, transitions from an authoritarian regime to a democracy may be accompanied by temporary increases in terrorism. Finally, the results suggest that geographic factors are important to sustain terrorist activities.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 17

Keywords: Crime and Criminal Justice, International Security, Political Science

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Date posted: November 9, 2004  

Suggested Citation

Abadie, Alberto, Poverty, Political Freedom, and the Roots of Terrorism (October 2004). KSG Working Paper No. RWP04-043. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=617542 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.617542

Contact Information

Alberto Abadie (Contact Author)
Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-4547 (Phone)
617-495-2575 (Fax)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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