International Relations Terrorism and Poverty
Javier Gardeazabal
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 November 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 November 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0296


Terrorism and poverty have multiple definitions. Terrorism is the premeditated use or threat to use violence by individuals or subnational groups to obtain a political or social goal through the intimidation of a large audience. Poverty is lacking sufficient material possessions or income to satisfy a person’s needs. Terrorism and poverty are multifaceted magnitudes. Terrorism can be domestic or transnational and rooted in ethnic, religious, economic, or political factors. Extreme poverty corresponds to a situation where the individual’s basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter are not met. More generally, poverty refers to failure to achieve these living standards along with education, health, and other necessities. Poverty is strongly and negatively associated with income. Both terrorism and poverty are related through social, economic, and political elements, making their association complex. Despite the intrinsic difficulty in appraising the relationship between terrorism and poverty, their connection is intriguing. This article compiles bibliographic references to empirical research related to two questions: Does terrorism cause poverty? Does poverty cause terrorism? There is a consensus on the answer to the first question: Terrorism has a negative impact on the economy, thus making individuals poorer. Hence, the research focuses on how to measure such negative impact and to assess its magnitude in various dimensions. However, the causal link from poverty to terrorism is not as easy to establish as intuition might suggest. Economic conditions do play a role in explaining terrorism outcomes, but their effect is mediated through other determinants making the causal relation from poverty to terrorism, if existing, much more complex. This article is organized as follows: After a section summarizing the general overviews of the field of terrorism studies in general and the Political Economy of Terrorism in particular, two sections organize the annotated bibliography regarding first the causal connection from terrorism to poverty and then from poverty to terrorism. The multiple economic consequences of terrorism are referred to in various subsections devoted to the aggregate economic cost of terrorism and its impact on investment, market valuation of firms, and the tourism sector. The role of poverty in causing terrorism is then analyzed including Aggregate Studies, some Explanations, and an analysis of the Policy Response to terrorism.

General Overviews

This section provides references to general overviews about terrorism. Oxford Bibliographies in International Relations includes related entries on terrorism: Terrorism, Terrorist Financing, Terrorist Group Strategies, Geography of Terrorism, and Gender and Terrorism. A feasible incursion into the field of terrorism would be to start with a historical description of the evolution of terrorism (e.g., Hoffman 2006). Wilkinson 1986 and Wilkinson 2011 constitute an inspiring sequential read. A handbook worth consulting is Schmid 2011. Of course, no single work can touch upon every single aspect about terrorism. However, most of its facets are addressed by more than sixty authors in the complete handbook Chenoweth, et al. 2019. All these references offer the reader a panoramic view of the field of terrorism studies. However, this OBO entry deals with the relation between terrorism and poverty and for that matter a masterpiece introduction covering both theory and empirics is Enders and Sandler 2011. A shorter book, easy to read for the general audience, is Sandler 2018.

  • Chenoweth, Erica, Richard English, Andreas Gofas, and Stathis N. Kalyvas. The Oxford Handbook of Terrorism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198732914.001.0001

    A complete handbook on terrorism covering every aspect, from the very definition of terrorism, typologies, causes, actors, modus operandi, strategies, history, and geography to the research approaches, methods, and counterterrorism policy analysis.

  • Enders, Walter, and Todd Sandler. The Political Economy of Terrorism. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511791451

    A complete review of the political economy of terrorism by two experts. A must read introduction to the literature. Read this book and the survey Gaibulloev and Sandler 2019 (cited under the Political Economy of Terrorism) to stay updated.

  • Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. Rev. and expanded ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.7312/hoff17476

    An expanded and extended edition of a classic. The book studies terrorism from a historical perspective, analyzing its origins, the process of internationalization, religious and suicide terrorism, terrorism’s relation to media coverage and public opinion, tactics, and targets.

  • Sandler, Todd. Terrorism: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    This is a short book intended for the general audience. From definitions and characterization of terrorism to its determinants, group formation, and tactics; government responses; and cost accounting, this book provides a complete overview of the field and an outlook of the future of terrorism as well as an excellent selection of references for the more interested readers.

  • Schmid, Alex P. The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research. London: Routledge, 2011.

    This handbook synthesizes scholarly research in the field of terrorism studies. It also includes information from the responses to a questionnaire by nearly one hundred experts from more than twenty countries; proposes a new consensus definition of terrorism; analyzes typologies of terrorism, databases, and other resources; and provides a directory of terrorist organizations.

  • Wilkinson, Paul. Terrorism and the Liberal State. London: Palgrave, 1986.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-86153-8

    This must-read book describes terrorism conceptually and delineates the problems of liberal democracies in coping with both internal and international terrorism.

  • Wilkinson, Paul. Terrorism versus Democracy: The Liberal State Response. 3d ed. London: Routledge, 2011.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203832318

    The third edition of this classic covers a wide range of topics from the origins of terrorism to political, judicial, and military considerations as well as the relationship between media and terrorism and international cooperation. It ends with a discussion about the future of terrorism and the response of democracies.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.