Does unemployment drive rebellion?

Maybe not.  There is a new piece out by Eli Berman, Michael Callen, Joseph H. Felter and Jacob N. Shapiro, in Journal of Conflict Resolution, August 2011.  Here is an ungated version, excerpt:

Most aid spending by governments seeking to rebuild social and political order is based on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting potential recruits. The logic is that gainfully employed young men are less likely to participate in political violence, implying a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in places with active insurgencies. We test that prediction on insurgencies in Iraq and the Philippines, using survey data on unemployment and two newly- available measures of insurgency: (1) attacks against government and allied forces; and (2) violence that kills civilians. Contrary to the opportunity-cost theory, we find a robust negative correlation between unemployment and attacks against government and allied forces and no significant relationship between unemployment and the rate of insurgent attacks that kill civilians.

Here is a WQ summary of some additional findings from the paper.

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