Social Welfare and ISIS Foreign Fighters

Moamen Gouda, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
Marcus Marktanner, Kennesaw State University


We provide empirical support for a positive relationship between social safety spending and the phenomenon of ISIS foreign fighters, particularly among OECD countries. We argue that the problem with social safety spending is not its abuse by recipients but the way it is distributed. When examining the nature of social safety spending, we find that OECD countries that prioritize passive rather than active labor market programs have, on average, proportionally more ISIS foreign fighters. We conclude that social safety spending that supports socioeconomic immobility is significantly associated with radicalization and terrorism.