Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Political Science


Political Science

Major Professor

Michael G. Huelshoff

Second Advisor

Edward E. Chervenak

Third Advisor

Robert M. Worth


In the post-9/11 years, terrorism has emerged as an urgent issue with important national security and foreign policy ramifications. Within political science, terrorism research has likewise developed as a burgeoning subfield with the potential for significant contributions to policymaking worldwide. However, the literature has until recently generally neglected gender inequality as a structural antecedent to terrorism, despite studies which support a relationship between gender parity and conflict mitigation in other areas as well as increasing calls for the integration of gender measures into counterterrorism agendas and initiatives among scholars and policymakers. To address this gap in the literature, I introduce a theory linking gender inequality to terrorism characterized by the implications of substantial gender gaps in rights as well as participation in social, economic, and political arenas, which I refer to as “pull,” “push,” and “prevent” factors. I test the theory using both panel analyses and a case study examining the formation of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Results of the empirical analyses indicate that while facets of female empowerment, including higher education, paid employment, and social rights, have robust effects on both terrorist group formation as well as numbers of attacks, gender equality is not a panacea for terrorism. In addition, effects on groups and attacks are not homogenous across types of gender inequities, indicating the need for further research on the relationship between socioeconomic and political gender gaps and terrorism. Case study findings largely reflect results from the models, and a comparison of regions in Nigeria further reveals that temporal and spatial patterns of gender inequality generally align to the outbreak of terrorist violence. I conclude by offering several areas of future research generated by arguments and findings presented here and discussing ways in which interventions at the global, state, and local levels may close gender gaps which have salience for mitigating terrorism.


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