Is there any evidence of a connection between poverty, underdevelopment and terrorism?

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Many people feel that there is a clear connection between poverty and terrorism.  Such attitudes can be found, for example, in this article in the New York Times.  People who make this claim argue that we can see proof in such things as the actions of terrorist groups within their own society.  They point to the Taliban in Afghanistan or Pakistan who provide educational services.  They point to Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, who provide a variety of social services.  What they say is that these groups can recruit people to their ideology because those people’s economic lives are so desperate that they will do anything to try to help themselves and their families.

While such narratives may sound compelling, there are many academics who disagree.  These are generally people who conduct more quantitative research.  Their studies have shown that poverty is not really a cause of terrorism.  Instead, they (as in this link) argue that political rights or that (as in this link) factors such as religious diversity and political party structures do much more to predict the level of terrorist activity in a country than poverty does.

As with any human phenomenon, it is very hard to prove what causes terrorism.  People who think more qualitatively often see a relationship between poverty and terrorism where those who look at things quantitatively and statistically do not.


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