Effects of Education on Terrorism
Part I – Objective: What are the effects of unbiased education on the potential for acts of terror? This study hopes to overcome barriers encountered by previous studies by using empirical analysis with innovative datasets, as well as a basic assumption that not all types of educational systems are the same. The major hypothesis will posit that unbiased education in a given society reduces the risk of terrorist attacks.
This proposal proceeds as follows: Part II provides a background and literature review. Part III discusses variables and the proposed methodology. Finally, Part IV explains the significance of this proposed study.
Part II – Background: Some previous studies suggest that education is either positively associated with terrorism or not statistically significant at all, but the results have thus far been inconclusive. Some major studies develop theories of increased education leading to increased participation in terrorism based solely on the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is a unique situation in itself (Berrebi 2007; Kreuger et al. 2003). These theories may not be applicable to other scenarios. Other studies try to conduct cross-sectional analyses, but use incomplete methods for measuring education, such as illiteracy rates (Krueger et al. 2003;) or enrollment rates (Testas 2004).
There are a few obstacles to these analyses that this study will try to confront. The major barrier that limits these previous studies is the tremendous lack of data on education levels; in fact, Kreuger et al. (2003:140) state that including illiteracy rates “reduces the sample size because data is not available for all countries.” Another obstacle to previous studies is a dependent variable based on tangible occurrences of major terrorist attacks rather than the potential for terrorism in a society. Using the latter definition as a dependent variable could aid the analysis in a number of ways: it will help account for attacks whose country of origin is unknown, it will include countries where no attacks originated from at all, and it will also provide more of a sense of whether there is a general atmosphere conducive to terrorism within a society.
There is also a major theoretical misstep not addressed by previous studies in their empirical analysis: all education systems are not the same. However, measures of education do not take into account the type or quality of education received; thus, education is assumed to be the same. Depending on the type of schooling, increased education could lead to increased participation in terrorism. A madrassa funded by a wealthy terrorist group will produce radically different scholars than schools that promote tolerance and understanding. Previous studies have suggested that many terrorists are actually more educated than the average person (Berrebi 2007; Kreuger et al. 2003). This may be because the type of schooling these terrorists received is far different than what we traditionally define education as. This study will assume that not all education is the same, and thus will attempt to differentiate between various types of education. Although different education systems may be hard to quantify, it may be possible to produce a dummy variable for different systems of education. This will be discussed further in the “Proposed Methodology” section.
In terms of the determinants of terrorism, the literature is expansive; multiple causes have been examined. The deprivation theory of terrorism claims people with lower socioeconomic welfare are more prone to subversive acts of violence. Income per capita is negatively associated with terrorism, and thus supports the deprivation theory (Freytag et al. 2011; Bravo 2006). One study suggests political freedom is a significant determinant of terrorism in a non-monotonic fashion: countries with high or low political repression are less likely to experience terrorism than countries with intermediate political repression (Abadie 2004). Consequently, illiberal non-democratic regime types are more likely to experience terrorism (Bravo 2006). Lastly, the presence of civil war in previous years also increases the chance of terrorist attacks in a given year (Testas 2004).
The vast benefits of unbiased education, defined as schooling that does not come with a political agenda, work to fight these root causes of terrorism. For example, education allows individuals to have better jobs and higher incomes, which translates into greater societal economic prosperity (Vila 2000; Wolfe 2002), and thus may address the deprivation theory. Education may also address political repression. In their working paper, “Learning Democracy: Education and the Fall of Authoritarian Regimes,” Sanborn & Thyne argue that increased education is a significant predictor of authoritarian regime failure due to an increased desire for participation in government; a more educated population increases the desire for political freedom and helps overthrow authoritarian regimes (Sanborn & Thyne 2011). Finally, Thyne (2006) suggests that increased education significantly reduces the chance of civil war through the creation of strong social cohesion in a society. Education attacks the root causes of terrorism on many layers, and thus this study will argue it is a significant factor in lowering the risk for terrorism.
Part III – Proposed Methodology and Variables: This study will employ a novel dependent variable for use with ordinal logistic regressions. Since 2007, the Institute for Economics and Peace, partnered with the Economist Intelligence Unit, releases an annual report known as the Global Peace Index, which quantifies a country’s relative peacefulness. One of the indicators used in the index is “Potential for Terrorist Acts.” This indicator ranks a country’s risk of terrorist attacks on a scale of 1-5 (very low-very high) and covers a cross-sectional time-series dataset of 153 countries from years 2007-2011. This indicator is particularly advantageous as a dependent variable because it is based on probability. The benefits of such a variable are outlined in the previous section. In comparison, the majority of previous studies potentially limit themselves by examining major occurrences of acts of terror rather than the relative potential of acts of terror across countries.
The variables discussed in the “Background” section–GDP per capita, political repression, civil war, and regime type–will be included in the regressions as controls. Population and geographic factors will also be included in the regression, as a previous study suggests they are significant in sustaining terrorism (Abadie 2004). All these variables will be added for two reasons: first, they will provide a comprehensive set of controls to pit the education indicators against, and second, they will be tested against a new dependent variable to check for robustness.
The dummy variable for various types of education, mentioned in the “Background” section, must be included in the regressions to test different types of education. Deriving this variable, however, will be the most tedious and demanding step in the study. The obstacles include defining the nature of the coding and how to obtain the information needed to create the variable. A preliminary proposition is that the variable can be coded 1 for education that includes major bias and 0 for education that is mostly unbiased. Again, the definition for biased education is schooling that comes with a political agenda. A look into how schools are funded, either by governments, private individuals, or terrorist organizations, could potentially help determine whether education is biased by this study’s definition. These are exploratory thoughts; the details of the complete methodology would have to be worked out.
For the independent variable, the IIASA Education Projections dataset will be used (KC et al. 2010). The dataset is constructed by producing forward-projections of education data for 120 countries from years 2000-2050. It uses the 2000 census and takes into account mortality and fertility rates. It is a superior dataset to use for a number of reasons. Firstly, it tracks education attainment levels for various age groups rather than enrollment rates or government expenditures; essentially, it tracks educational output rather than input. It also standardizes definitions of primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of achievement, which may have different meanings for cross-sectional groups. But most importantly, the IIASA dataset has a value for every country-year it includes, which drastically reduces missingness of data, the major problem in examining education variables. With the use of unprecedented datasets, a thorough set of controls, and a dummy variable differentiating educational systems, this study hopes to make up for the deficiencies present in the previous literature.
Part IV – Significance: Since 9/11, fighting global terrorism has become a political, social, religious, and moral priority. Identifying the origins of terrorism can aid policymakers and researchers in initiating and drafting procedures designed to address terrorism’s root causes. However, the determinants of terrorism that have been examined to date are incredibly difficult to change or manipulate externally. GDP growth is not a simple feat even through foreign aid, especially when some countries are too deeply entrenched in poverty and do not possess stable political institutions to pull themselves out of it. Quickly toppling authoritarian regimes or decreasing political repression may involve drastic methods, such as wars or sanctions that could actually end up decreasing the welfare of the population, thereby leading to more acts of terror. It is difficult for foreign power to prevent civil wars. Civil wars could also be born out of the same environments that are conducive to terrorism, and consequently cause a state to enter a recurrent downward spiral, leading to more terror and more conflict.
The purpose of this study is to add a tool to the policymaker’s arsenal to combat terrorism, a tool that is plausible, simpler, and involves less loss of life: education. Specifically, the goal of this study is to suggest unbiased, tolerant education reduces the change of terrorism. Rather than a reactionary fix, education may provide a preventive solution to stop terror before it even begins. Not only that, but the change would take place internally rather than be forced on a state externally by a foreign power. Such a finding could have major implications in the international sphere. For example, foreign aid could be directed to countries that are investing in education to create an open and free public learning system. An emphasis can be placed on organizations that promote universal education, thereby increasing public funding and awareness of such organizations. If the aim of the War on Terror is to curb and hopefully stop terrorism, then discerning causal factors that prevent terrorism from occurring in the first place should be the main concern for researchers and policymakers in the field of international development and security.
Abadie, Alberto. "Poverty, Political Freedom, and the Roots of Terrorism." American
Economic Review 96.2 (2004): 50-56.
Berrebi, Claude. "Evidence about the Link Between Education, Poverty and Terrorism
among Palestinians." Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy 13.1
Bravo, Ana, Bela Santos, and Carlos Manuel Mendes Dias. "An Empirical Analysis Of
Terrorism: Deprivation, Islamism And Geopolitical Factors." Defence and Peace
Economics 17.4 (2006): 329-41.
Fair, C. Christine, and Bryan Shepherd. "Who Supports Terrorism? Evidence from
Fourteen Muslim Countries." Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 29.1 (2006): 51-74.
Freytag, Andreas, Jens J. Krüger, Daniel Meierrieks, and Friedrich Schneider. "The
Origins of Terrorism: Cross-country Estimates of Socio-economic Determinants
of Terrorism." European Journal of Political Economy 27 (2011): S5-S16.
Institute for Economics & Peace. Global Peace Index: 2011 Methodology, Results &
Findings. Rep. Sydney: Institute for Economics & Peace, 2011.
KC, Samir, Bilal Barakat, Anne Goujon, Vegard Skirbekk, Warren Sanderson, Wolfgang
Lutz. “Projection of populations by level of educational attainment, age, and sex
for 120 countries for 2005-2050.” Demographic Research 22.15 (2010): 383-472
Krueger, Alan B. and Jitka Maleckova. "Education, Poverty And Terrorism: Is There A
Causal Connection?" Journal of Economic Perspectives 17.4 (2003): 119-144.
Sanford, Howard B., and Clayton L. Thyne. "Learning Democracy: Education and the
Fall of Authoritarian Regimes." Presented at Midwest Political Science
Testas, Abdelaziz. "Determinants Of Terrorism In The Muslim World: An Empirical
Cross-Sectional Analysis." Terrorism and Political Violence 16.2 (2004): 253-73.
Thyne, Clayton L. "ABC's, 123's, and the Golden Rule: The Pacifying Effect of
Education on Civil War, 1980-1999." International Studies Quarterly 50.4
Vila, Luis E. "The Non-monetary Benefits of Education." European Journal of Education
35.1 (2000): 21-32.
Wolfe, B. L., and R. H. Haveman. "Social and Nonmarket Benefits from Education in an
Advanced Economy." Conference Series - Federal Reserve Bank of Boston 47