Is it time to rethink link between poverty and extremism?

    A bricklayer in Pakistan. A new reports suggests that there is little evidence to prop the idea that poverty is the root cause of support for extremists. Photo by: Madeeha Syed / CC BY-NC-ND

    It’s one widely accepted view: The provision of economic aid to lift people out of poverty helps stem support for extremism. But a report now challenges this conventional wisdom with new and rather surprising findings.

    “Contrary to expectations, poor Pakistanis dislike militants more than middle-class citizens. This dislike is strongest among the urban poor, particularly those in violent districts, suggesting that exposure to terrorist attacks reduces support for militants. Long-standing arguments tying support for violent organizations to income may require substantial revision,” says the report, which was published on the American Journal of Political Science.

    The report is by a group of experts and professors from Princeton University, Georgetown University and Stanford University. They surveyed 6,000 people from rural and urban areas in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to measure their attitudes toward four militant organizations, namely Kashmeer Tanzeem, Afghan Taliban, al-Qaida and Sectarian Tanzeem.

    In the report’s conclusion, the authors argue that their findings “call into question conventional views about the perceived correlation between economic status and militant attitudes in Pakistan and other countries.”

    Read the full report online and tell us what you think by leaving a comment below.

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    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.

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