The Socioeconomics of Islamist Radicalization in the West

It is widely assumed among terrorism experts that poverty is not a cause of jihadi violence. However, new theory and evidence suggest that the poverty-terrorism link may operate differently in rich and poor countries, and that economic deprivation may affect radicalization more in wealthy societies.

This project will test several sets of hypotheses about the link between economic deprivation and Islamist extremism in the West.

In its first of three components, the project will combine, standardize and extenda number of existing data sets with biographical information about Islamist radicals based in Western countries. The result will be a uniquely large and comprehensive database with anonymized biographical information.

In its second component, the project will merge this data with demographic and other survey data from jihadists' countries of origin to statistically test three sets of hypotheses:

  • Opportunity costs: poorer individuals with 'less to lose' are more likely to engage in high-cost militancy
  • Relative deprivation: individuals facing social mobility closure are more likely to become radicalized
  • Horizontal inequality: frustration with the collective deprivation of Muslim peers motivates radicalization processes.

We will run a wide range of individual-level and country level statistical models to assess the above hypotheses.

In its third component, the project will undertake in-depth qualitative research on a sub-set of jihadi biographies to flesh out social and psychological nuances of the causal mechanisms linking socio-economic status to radicalization.

The project's outcomes will include standard-setting, high-profile publications on the economic roots of jihadi radicalism in the West; a publicly available online platform with standardized biographical data on thousands of Islamist radicals; and actionable policy knowledge that will allow more targeted interventions to address the socio-economic roots of jihadism among Western Muslim communities.

Principal investigator

Portrait photo of Dr Steffen Hertog

Dr Steffen Hertog
Associate Professor in Comparative Politics



  • Dr Adrian Arellano (research officer)
  • Iman Dawood
  • Rune Larsen
  • Ciaran Macdonald
  • Davide Mattone
  • Haile Zola
  • Victoria Devars
  • Beritane Cheikhi
  • Emine Korogolu
  • Jemima Ackah-Arthur
  • Harry Pepper

Project details

Project duration: 4 years

Project funder: Research Council of Norway


Dr Steffen Hertog
Associate Professor in Comparative Politics

Email: s.hertog@lse.ac.uk