The Relationship between Youth Unemployment and Terrorism
Flowers, Shannon Christian
This paper uses country-level data from 2000 to 2009 to analyze the relationship between the domestic labor force participation rates of young adults aged 15-24 and the production of terrorist activity in order to determine whether decreasing labor force participation in this cohort is associated with the number of terrorist incidents that originate in a given country in a given year. A survey of recent scholarly work suggests that a relationship exists between terrorism and the extent of youth unemployment in target countries. It is less clear what the relationship is between unemployment and the "production" of terrorism from the perspective of origin countries. I use country-level fixed effects in regression analysis to examine this relationship. My results suggest a modest, negative, and contemporaneous relationship between young male and young female labor force participation and origin-country terrorism, but this effect disappears when both genders are combined into a single regression. The results are limited by the availability of reliable data as well as possible omitted variable bias. For example, attitudes about the value of work, or other cultural norms in general, are not captured in my model if these views change over time within countries. The policy implications of an established and credible connection between domestic economic conditions and terrorist activity are potentially broad. The employment of young people is generally seen as a marker of healthy economic conditions, but it is typically not viewed as a protection against terrorism or even other security threats.
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