Do Working Men Rebel? Study on Joblessness and Insurgency Leads to Surprising Results


Categorie: COIN, David Axe, Iraq, Research |


It’s conventional wisdom that deep unemployment in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan contributes to extremism and insurgency. For that reason, coalition forces often make job creation a centerpiece of their strategies. In southern Iraq in 2006, British Lieutenant Colonel John Bowron said joblessness “puts people in front of a militia recruiter.” The British Army flooded Basra with cash for small projects, but that did nothing to turn around the rising insurgency. A year later, the British had all but abandoned Iraqi cities.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has published study looking into that apparent disconnect between assumption and reality. “Do Working Men Rebel?” by economist Eli Berman, Army Colonel Joseph Felter and Stanford fellow Jacob Shapiro examines insurgencies in Iraq and The Philippines and concludes that “lower unemployment may be associated with a higher number of assaults,” according to The Wall Street Journal‘s summary of the report. WSJ continues:

The scholars say that one reason for this is that government forces may be able to pay off locals for tips on guerrillas more cheaply when unemployment is high. Another possibility is military crackdowns may increase unemployment, because communities are walled off, but reduce attacks by insurgents. 

(Photo: David Axe)


One Response to “Do Working Men Rebel? Study on Joblessness and Insurgency Leads to Surprising Results”

  1. [...] from the United States into three categories: bilateral budget support, public diplomacy, and the construction/reconstruction aspect of counter-insurgency. Why are these three things not aid? Relief and development aid are supposed to be delivered on the [...]

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