Public Choice

, 149:441 | Cite as

Terrorist group survival: ideology, tactics, and base of operations

  • S. Brock Blomberg
  • Khusrav Gaibulloev
  • Todd SandlerEmail author


The paper applies survival analysis to identify the determinants of terrorist group duration. Our sample includes 367 terrorist organizations that operated during 1970–2007. Consistent with the theory, determinants of these groups’ survival include their tactics, sizes, ideological basis, regions of operation, and base-country characteristics. Cross-sectional and panel estimates are reported. Terrorist organizations fare better if they are larger in size, diversify their attack modes, are animated by religiosity rather than secular political goals, and base their operations in the Middle East or Africa. Groups’ longevity is bolstered by democratic institutions and an intermediate level of ethnic fractionalization at home.


Terrorist group survival Terrorist tactics Terrorist groups’ ideology Panel estimates Cross-sectional estimates 

JEL Classification

D74 C41 H56 


  1. Abadie, A. (2006). Poverty, political freedom and the roots of terrorism. American Economic Review, 96(2), 50–56. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alesina, A., Devleeschauwer, A., Easterly, W., Kurlat, S., & Wacziarg, R. (2003). Fractionalization. Journal of Economic Growth, 8(2), 155–194. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allison, P. D. (1982). Discrete-time methods for the analysis of event histories. Sociological Methodology, 13(11), 61–98. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bandyopadhyay, S., Sandler, T., & Younas, J. (2011). Foreign aid as counterterrorism policy. Oxford Economic Papers, 63(3), 423–447. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Basuchoudhary, A., & Shughart, W. F. II (2010). On ethnic conflict and the origins of transnational terrorism. Defence and Peace Economics, 21(1), 65–87. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Benmelech, E., & Berrebi, C. (2007). Human capital and the productivity of suicide bombers. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(3), 223–238. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berrebi, C., & Lakdawalla, D. (2007). How does terrorism risk vary across space and time? An analysis based on Israeli experience. Defence and Peace Economics, 18(2), 113–131. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blomberg, S. B., Engel, R. C., & Sawyer, R. (2010). On the duration and sustainability of transnational terrorist organizations. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 54(2), 303–330. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cronin, A. K. (2006). How al-Qaida ends: the decline and demise of terrorist groups. International Security, 31(1), 7–48. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cronin, A. K. (2009). How terrorism ends: understanding the decline and demise of terrorist campaigns. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  11. Enders, W. (2007). Terrorism: an empirical analysis. In T. Sandler & K. Hartley (Eds.), Handbook of defense economics: defense in a globalized world (Vol. 2, pp. 815–866). Amsterdam: North-Holland. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Enders, W., & Sandler, T. (1993). The effectiveness of anti-terrorism policies: a vector-autoregression-intervention analysis. The American Political Science Review, 87(4), 829–844. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Enders, W., & Sandler, T. (2000). Is transnational terrorism becoming more threatening? A time-series investigation. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 44(3), 307–322. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Enders, W., & Sandler, T. (2006a). The political economy of terrorism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  15. Enders, W., & Sandler, T. (2006b). Distribution of transnational terrorism among countries by income classes and geography after 9/11. International Studies Quarterly, 50(2), 367–393. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Enders, W., Sandler, T., & Gaibulloev, K. (2011). Domestic versus transnational terrorism: data, decomposition, and dynamics. Journal of Peace Research, 48(3), 319–337. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fearon, J. D., & Laitin, D. (2003). Ethnicity, insurgency, and civil war. The American Political Science Review, 97(1), 75–90. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Feinstein, J. S., & Kaplan, E. H. (2010). Analysis of strategic terror organization. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 54(2), 281–302. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fleck, R. K., & Kilby, C. (2010). Changing aid regimes? US foreign aid from the Cold War to war on terror. Journal of Development Economics, 91(1), 185–197. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gallup, J. L., Mellinger, A. D., & Sachs, J. D. (1999a). Geography datasets. Boston: Center for International Development, Harvard University. Google Scholar
  21. Gallup, J. L., Sachs, J. D., & Mellinger, A. D. (1999b). Geography and economic development (CID working paper No. 1). Boston: Center for International Development, Harvard University. Google Scholar
  22. Gutfraind, A. (2009). Understanding terrorist organizations with a dynamic model. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 32(1), 45–55. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Heston, A., Summers, R., & Aten, B. (2009). Penn world table version 6.3. Philadelphia: Center for International Comparisons of Production, Income and Prices, University of Pennsylvania. Google Scholar
  24. Hoffman, B. (2006). Inside terrorism: revised and expanded edition. New York: Columbia University Press. Google Scholar
  25. Jenkins, S. P. (1995). Easy estimation methods for discrete-time duration models. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 57(1), 129–138. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jones, S. G., & Libicki, M. C. (2008). How terrorist groups end: lessons for countering al Qa’ida (Monograph MG-741-1). Santa Monica: RAND. Google Scholar
  27. Landes, W. H. (1978). An economic study of US aircraft hijackings, 1961–1976. The Journal of Law & Economics, 21(1), 1–31. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Li, Q. (2005). Does democracy promote transnational terrorist incidents? The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(2), 278–297. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Marshall, M. G., & Jaggers, K. (2009). Polity IV dataset version 2007 and Dataset users’ manual. Fairfax: Center for Systemic Peace and the Center for Global Policy, George Mason University. Accessed 1 July 2009.
  30. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) (2009). Global terrorism database (GTD) (CD-ROM). College Park: University of Maryland. Google Scholar
  31. Rapoport, D. C. (2004). Modern terror: the four waves. In A. K. Cronin & J. M. Ludes (Eds.), Attacking terrorism: elements of grand strategy (pp. 46–73). Washington: Georgetown University Press. Google Scholar
  32. Sandler, T. (2009). The past and future of terrorism research. Revista de Economia Aplicada, 51(1), 5–25. Google Scholar
  33. Sandler, T., Tschirhart, T., & Cauley, J. (1983). A theoretical analysis of transnational terrorism. The American Political Science Review, 77(1), 36–54. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shughart, W. F. II (2006). An analytical history of terrorism, 1945–2000. Public Choice, 128(1–2), 7–39. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shughart, W. F. II (2011). Terrorism in rational choice perspective. In C. J. Coyne & R. L. Mathers (Eds.), The handbook on the political economy of war (pp. 126–153). Northampton: Edward Elgar. Google Scholar
  36. STATA (2009). Stata survival analysis and epidemiological tables reference manual (Release 11). College Station: StataCorp LP. Google Scholar
  37. Wilkinson, P. (2001). Terrorism versus democracy: the liberal state response. London: Frank Cass. Google Scholar
  38. World Bank (2010). World development indicators (WDI). Accessed 28 November 2010.
  39. Young, J. K., & Dugan, L. (2010). Why do terrorist groups endure? Paper presented at the International Studies Association Meetings, New Orleans, LA. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Brock Blomberg
    • 1
  • Khusrav Gaibulloev
    • 2
  • Todd Sandler
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsClaremont McKenna CollegeClaremontUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsKazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic ResearchAlmatyKazakhstan
  3. 3.School of Economic, Political & Policy SciencesUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

Personalised recommendations