Poverty, minority economic discrimination, and domestic terrorism

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Recognizing that the empirical literature of the past several years has produced an inconclusive picture, this study revisits the relationship between poverty and terrorism and suggests a new factor to explain patterns of domestic terrorism: minority economic discrimination. Central to this study is the argument that because terrorism is not a mass phenomenon but rather is undertaken by politically marginal actors with often narrow constituencies, the economic status of subnational groups is a crucial potential predictor of attacks. Using data from the Minorities at Risk project, I determine that countries featuring minority group economic discrimination are significantly more likely to experience domestic terrorist attacks, whereas countries lacking minority groups or whose minorities do not face discrimination are significantly less likely to experience terrorism. I also find minority economic discrimination to be a strong and substantive predictor of domestic terrorism vis-à-vis the general level of economic development. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of the findings for scholarship on terrorism and for counter-terrorism policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-353
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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