What Explains the Flow of Foreign Fighters to ISIS?

27 Pages Posted: 10 May 2016

See all articles by Efraim Benmelech

Efraim Benmelech

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Esteban F. Klor

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 1, 2016

Abstract

This paper provides the first systematic analysis of the link between economic, political, and social conditions and the global phenomenon of ISIS foreign fighters. We find that poor economic conditions do not drive participation in ISIS. In contrast, the number of ISIS foreign fighters is positively correlated with a country's GDP per capita and Human Development Index (HDI). In fact, many foreign fighters originate from countries with high levels of economic development, low income inequality, and highly developed political institutions. Other factors that explain the number of ISIS foreign fighters are the size of a country's Muslim population and its ethnic homogeneity. Although we cannot directly determine why people join ISIS, our results suggest that the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS is driven not by economic or political conditions but rather by ideology and the difficulty of assimilation into homogeneous Western countries.

JEL Classification: D74

Suggested Citation

Benmelech, Efraim and Klor, Esteban F., What Explains the Flow of Foreign Fighters to ISIS? (April 1, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2777466 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2777466

Efraim Benmelech

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

Evanston, IL 60208
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Esteban F. Klor (Contact Author)

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, 91905
Israel
+972 2 588 3143 (Phone)
+972 2 581 6071 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://economics.huji.ac.il/facultye/klor/klor.htm

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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