Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Political Science

Committee Chair(s)

Anna Pechenkina


Anna Pechenkina


Austin Knuppe


Joshua Ryan


This paper asks whether U.S. aid reduces terrorism. Foreign assistance may be of two types: socio-economic aid (aims to address the root causes of terrorism by improving health care, education, justice systems, infrastructure, etc. in the recipient country) and military aid (designed to fight terrorism with force and manifests as military operations in a recipient country). Most countries receive both military aid and socio-economic US aid for long spells of time. This is why this research asks: 1) how economic and military types of aid influence terrorism over time, and 2) whether and how economic aid and military types of aid interact with each other to shape terrorist activity in recipient countries.

My argument is that military and economic types of aid have varying effects over time. Socio-economic aid will likely reduce terrorist activity in the long-term as it alleviates grievances that boost recruitment by extremist organizations, however, it may increase terrorist activity in the short run, because it provides easy targets to terrorist groups. Military aid suppresses militant organizations in the short-term through “decapitation” and cutting off logistical support, reducing the number of terrorist attacks that originate from the recipient country. On the other hand, casualties among civilians that accompany such military operations may backfire by propelling long-term recruitment by terrorist organizations, leading to more attacks in the future.

To test my argument, I analyze time-series cross-sectional data on U.S economic and military aid and terrorist activity during 1946–2010 across 142 countries. My key findings include: 1) in the models with country-level fixed effects, aid has no systematic effect on terrorism, 2) when considering the impact of economic aid on terrorism, when no military aid is provided, economic aid in the previous year is associated with a modest increase in terrorism, while economic aid provided in the previous 7 to 10 years is associated with a modest reduction in terrorism.