Unemployment and Violent Extremism: Evidence from Daesh Foreign Recruits

Year: 2018 HiCN Working Paper No. 273

Transnational terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS/ISIL or Daesh) have shown an ability to attract radicalized individuals from many countries to join their ranks. Using a novel data set that reports countries of residence and educational levels of a large sample of Daesh’s foreign recruits, this paper finds 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 the Syrian Arab Republic.