Demographics of Terrorism

I thought this demographic and psychological study by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (caution:  I have not idea who these guys are) and linked via Little Green Footballs is pretty interesting.

Most people think that terrorism comes from poverty, broken families, ignorance, immaturity, lack of family or occupational responsibilities, weak minds susceptible to brainwashing - the sociopath, the criminals, the religious fanatic, or, in this country, some believe they're just plain evil.

Taking these perceived root causes in turn, three quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority"”90 percent"”came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that's usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.

Al Qaeda's members are not the Palestinian fourteen-year- olds we see on the news, but join the jihad at the average age of 26. Three-quarters were professionals or semi- professionals. They are engineers, architects, and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion. The natural sciences predominate. Bin Laden himself is a civil engineer, Zawahiri is a physician, Mohammed Atta was, of course, an architect; and a few members are military, such as Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, who is supposedly the head of the military committee.

This is not particularly surprising to me.  The "terrorism comes from poverty" mantra has more to do with trying to make a political point (generally to excuse terrorism and totalitarianism and often to blame the US) rather than any particular facts on the subject.  In fact, the description above matches surprisingly well with US domestic terrorists and mass murderers.  Though there is a lot of argument nowadays about this stereotype, Phillip Simpson describes the FBI's serial killer profile (emphasis mine):

He is usually a white male between twenty-five and thirty-five years old, though of course there are teen-aged and elderly serial killers as well. Generally, the male serial killer is at the height of his physical powers, a fact which not only serves him in the practical matter of overpowering victims but also empowers him in the public arena: his strength and apparent potency (and of course, choice of innocent victims) render him an effective media monster. He is also likely to be an eldest son or an only child and of average or above-average intelligence. His childhood may have been marked by incidents of sexual or physical abuse, and his parents may be divorced or flagrantly unfaithful to one another. He usually possesses a strong belief that he is more intelligent and privileged than ordinary people (a belief that only grows stronger when confronted by evidence to the contrary) and thus exempted from the social restrictions that govern the masses. No safe predictions can be made about his economic origins, but as Leyton notes, serial murder in our era is more a crime of the middle classes than of the lower or upper ranges of the socioeconomic hierarchy.

The sexual material may or may not be parallel, though it is interesting to think about in terms of the anti-women male dominance of radical Islam.