Working Papers

Unemployment and Violent Extremism: Evidence from Daesh Foreign Recruits




February, 2019



F5. International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy

E2. Consumption, Saving, Production, Investment, Labor Markets, and Informal Economy

Transnational terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (also known as Daesh) have shown an ability to attract radicalized individuals from many countries to join their ranks, and perpetrate attacks around the world. Using a novel data set that reports countries of residence and educational levels of a large sample of Daesh’s foreign recruits, we find that a lack of economic opportunities – measured by unemployment rates disaggregated by country and education level – explains foreign enrollment in the terrorist organization, especially for countries that are geographically closer to Syria.