Revisiting the Economics and Terrorism Nexus: Collective Deprivation, Ideology and Domestic Radicalization in the US (1948–2016)
Studies generally find no relationship between economic deprivation and terrorist activities, leading to the conclusion that economic conditions have no role in the emergence of terrorist movements. The present paper challenges this conclusion. It argues that collective deprivation affects participation into terrorism, but in different directions depending on the ideology of terrorist movements: far-right terrorism should mobilize more under times of collective deprivation while far-left terrorism should mobilize more under times of collective improvement.
I tested this hypothesis on the PIRUS database about domestic terrorists (N = 1295) in the United States from 1948 to 2016. I analysed whether the proportion of far-right (versus far-left) terrorists in a given year depends on collective deprivation in the US, operationalized through long-term recession of the income and long-term growth of inequality.
Hierarchical logistic regression analyses confirmed that far-right terrorism mobilizes more under periods of long-term economic deprivation, while far-left terrorism mobilizes more under improving economic conditions. Besides, the effect of collective deprivation appears to be of socio-tropic nature: it is especially determinant at the national level, rather than at the state or individual level. In contrast, results do not support the view that Islamist terrorism is affected by collective deprivation.
The study challenges the view that economic conditions have no role in triggering terrorist mobilization. The differential effect of collective deprivation on far-right and far-left terrorism is compatible with system-justification and backlash theories. Besides, the findings suggest that collective deprivation affects radicalization at an early phase rather than the offending phase.
KeywordsDeprivation Terrorism Ideology Radicalization
I would like to thank three reviewers for their insightful comments that greatly contributed to improving the final version of the paper. I am also very grateful to Raul Magni-Berton, Peter S. Henne, Céline Belot and Laurent Bègue for their helpful suggestions. This research is part of a Ph.D. funded by the Communauté Université Grenoble Alpes.
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