What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism

Princeton University Press

Many popular ideas about terrorists and why they seek to harm us are fueled by falsehoods and misinformation. Leading politicians and scholars have argued that poverty and lack of education breed terrorism, despite the wealth of evidence showing that most terrorists come from middle-class, and often college-educated, backgrounds. In What Makes a Terrorist, Alan Krueger argues that if we are to correctly assess the root causes of terrorism and successfully address the threat, we must think more like economists do.

Krueger is an influential economist who has applied rigorous statistical analysis to a range of tough issues, from the minimum wage and education to the occurrence of hate crimes. In this book, he explains why our tactics in the fight against terrorism must be based on more than anecdote and speculation. Krueger closely examines the factors that motivate individuals to participate in terrorism, drawing inferences from terrorists' own backgrounds and the economic, social, and political conditions in the societies from which they come. He describes which countries are the most likely breeding grounds for terrorists, and which ones are most likely to be their targets. Krueger addresses the economic and psychological consequences of terrorism. He puts the terrorist threat squarely into perspective, revealing how our nation's sizeable economy is diverse and resilient enough to withstand the comparatively limited effects of most terrorist strikes. And he calls on the media to be more responsible in reporting on terrorism.

What Makes a Terrorist brings needed clarity to one of the greatest challenges of our time.

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About the author

Alan B. Krueger is the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Princeton University and an adviser to the National Counterterrorism Center. He is the coauthor of Inequality in America and Myth and Measurement (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Sep 2, 2008
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Pages
248
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ISBN
9781400828838
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / International / Economics
Business & Economics / International / General
Political Science / Terrorism
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Violence in Society
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Why we need to think more like economists to successfully combat terrorism

If we are to correctly assess the root causes of terrorism and successfully address the threat, we must think more like economists do. Alan Krueger’s What Makes a Terrorist, explains why our tactics in the fight against terrorism must be based on more than anecdote, intuition, and speculation.

Many popular ideas about terrorists are fueled by falsehoods, misinformation, and fearmongering. Many believe that poverty and lack of education breed terrorism, despite a wealth of evidence showing that most terrorists come from middle-class and often college-educated backgrounds. Krueger closely examines the factors that motivate individuals to participate in terrorism, drawing inferences from terrorists’ own backgrounds and the economic, social, religious, and political environments in the societies from which they come. He describes which countries are the most likely breeding grounds for terrorists, and which ones are most likely to be their targets. Krueger addresses the economic and psychological consequences of terrorism and puts the threat squarely into perspective, revealing how our nation’s sizable economy is diverse and resilient enough to withstand the comparatively limited effects of most terrorist strikes. He also calls on the media to be more responsible in reporting on terrorism.

Bringing needed clarity to one of the greatest challenges of our generation, this 10th anniversary edition of What Makes a Terrorist features a new introduction by the author that discusses the lessons learned in the past decade from the rise of ISIS and events like the 2016 Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida.

The positive social benefits of low unemployment are many—it helps to reduce poverty and crime and fosters more stable families and communities. Yet conventional wisdom—born of the stagflation of the 1970s—holds that sustained low unemployment rates run the risk of triggering inflation. The last five years of the 1990s—in which unemployment plummeted and inflation remained low—called this conventional wisdom into question. The Roaring Nineties provides a thorough review of the exceptional economic performance of the late 1990s and asks whether it was due to a lucky combination of economic circumstances or whether the new economy has somehow wrought a lasting change in the inflation-safe rate of unemployment.

Led by distinguished economists Alan Krueger and Robert Solow, a roster of twenty-six respected economic experts analyzes the micro- and macroeconomic factors that led to the unexpected coupling of low unemployment and low inflation. The more macroeconomically oriented chapters clearly point to a reduction in the inflation-safe rate of unemployment. Laurence Ball and Robert Moffitt see the slow adjustment of workers' wage aspirations in the wake of rising productivity as a key factor in keeping inflation at bay. And Alan Blinder and Janet Yellen credit sound monetary policy by the Federal Reserve Board with making the best of fortunate circumstances, such as lower energy costs, a strong dollar, and a booming stock market.

Other chapters in The Roaring Nineties examine how the interaction between macroeconomic and labor market conditions helped sustain high employment growth and low inflation. Giuseppe Bertola, Francine Blau, and Lawrence M. Kahn demonstrate how greater flexibility in the U.S. labor market generated more jobs in this country than in Europe, but at the expense of greater earnings inequality. David Ellwood examines the burgeoning shortage of skilled workers, and suggests policies—such as tax credits for businesses that provide on-the-job-training—to address the problem. And James Hines, Hilary Hoynes, and Alan Krueger elaborate the benefits of sustained low unemployment, including budget surpluses that can finance public infrastructure and social welfare benefits—a perspective often lost in the concern over higher inflation rates.

While none of these analyses promise that the good times of the 1990s will last forever, The Roaring Nineties provides a unique analysis of recent economic history, demonstrating how the nation capitalized on a lucky confluence of economic factors, helping to create the longest peacetime boom in American history.


Copublished with The Century Foundation

A large central government providing numerous public services has long been a hallmark of Swedish society, which is also well-known for its pursuit of equality. Yet in the 1990s, Sweden moved away from this tradition in education, introducing market-oriented reforms that decentralized authority over public schools and encouraged competition between private and public schools. Many wondered if this approach would improve educational quality, or if it might expand inequality that Sweden has fought so hard to hold down. In The Market Comes to Education in Sweden, economists Anders Björklund, Melissa Clark, Per-Anders Edin, Peter Fredriksson, and Alan Krueger measure the impact of Sweden's bold experiment in governing and help answer the questions that societies across the globe have been debating as they try to improve their children's education.

The Market Comes to Education in Sweden injects some much-needed objectivity into the heavily politicized debate about the effectiveness of educational reform. While advocates for reform herald the effectiveness of competition in improving outcomes, others suggest that the reforms will grossly increase educational inequality for young people. The authors find that increased competition did help improve students' math and language skills, but only slightly, and with no effect on the performance of foreign-born students and those with low-educated parents. They also find some signs of increasing school segregation and wider inequality in student performance, but nothing near the doomsday scenarios many feared. In fact, the authors note that the relationship between family background and school performance has hardly budged since before the reforms were enacted. The authors conclude by providing valuable recommendations for school reform, such as strengthening school evaluation criteria, which are essential for parents, students, and governments to make competent decisions regarding education.

Whether or not the market-oriented reforms to Sweden's educational system succeed will have far reaching implications for other countries considering the same course of action. The Market Comes to Education in Sweden offers firm empirical answers to the questions raised by school reform and brings crucial facts to the debate over the future of schooling in countries across the world.

David Card and Alan B. Krueger have already made national news with their pathbreaking research on the minimum wage. Here they present a powerful new challenge to the conventional view that higher minimum wages reduce jobs for low-wage workers. In a work that has important implications for public policy as well as for the direction of economic research, the authors put standard economic theory to the test, using data from a series of recent episodes, including the 1992 increase in New Jersey's minimum wage, the 1988 rise in California's minimum wage, and the 1990-91 increases in the federal minimum wage. In each case they present a battery of evidence showing that increases in the minimum wage lead to increases in pay, but no loss in jobs.

A distinctive feature of Card and Krueger's research is the use of empirical methods borrowed from the natural sciences, including comparisons between the "treatment" and "control" groups formed when the minimum wage rises for some workers but not for others. In addition, the authors critically reexamine the previous literature on the minimum wage and find that it, too, lacks support for the claim that a higher minimum wage cuts jobs. Finally, the effects of the minimum wage on family earnings, poverty outcomes, and the stock market valuation of low-wage employers are documented. Overall, this book calls into question the standard model of the labor market that has dominated economists' thinking on the minimum wage. In addition, it will shift the terms of the debate on the minimum wage in Washington and in state legislatures throughout the country.

With a new preface discussing new data, Myth and Measurement continues to shift the terms of the debate on the minimum wage.

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