Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Checkpoints, Not Checks

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Checkpoints, Not Checks

Article excerpt

IN THE 1960S, criminologists developed the theory that employed men are less likely to commit crimes because they are meaningfully occupied. The logic eventually migrated to conflict zones: Unemployed men with lots of time on their hands have the opportunity and motivation to participate in political violence, the thinking went. Put these men to work and insurgent violence will decrease. Job creation programs led by aid and development organizations have sprouted up around the world in order to put this wisdom into action.

But these efforts maybe for naught, according to economists Eli Berman and Michael Callen of the University of California, San Diego; Colonel Joseph H. Felter, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution; and political scientist Jacob N. Shapiro of Princeton. They studied the relationship between unemployment and insurgent activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines during discrete periods over roughly the past decade. Their findings: Higher unemployment rates correlated with less political violence overall. In Iraq, for example, a 10 percent increase in the unemployment rate dovetailed with 0.74 fewer acts of insurgent activity per 1,000 people.

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