Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2347881
FEMALE LONE WOLF TERRORISM
The Economic Analysis of Uniquely Gendered Lived Experiences
Dr Peter J Phillips1
In the United States, lone wolf terrorism is characterised by a significant gender gap. Most
lone wolf terrorists are male. This paper explores this gender gap and compares it to the
broader gender gap in illegitimate and, especially, violent offending. The standard theoretical
response from economics is examined and critiqued from a number of perspectives, including
the perspective of feminist economics. Alternative economic theoretical explanations for the
gender gap are discussed.
Key Words: Lone Wolf Terrorism, Gender Gap, Violent Offending, Illegitimate Activity,
Corresponding Author: Dr Peter J Phillips, Associate Professor of Finance, School of Accounting,
Economics and Finance, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.
Telephone: 617 46315490 & Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2347881
FEMALE LONE WOLF TERRORISM
The Economic Analysis of Uniquely Gendered Lived Experiences
Lone wolf offenders who have perpetrated individual acts of terrorism in the United States have predominantly
been male. The asymmetry in violent offending in this context requires further investigation as it presents an
analytical challenge to terrorism studies, including economics2
and political science6
. This paper is primarily concerned with economic analysis and
the explanations that emerge when the traditional tools of orthodox economics are applied to a study of the
gender gap. The standard model of constrained utility maximisation leads to an explanation for the gender gap
that focuses, in the first instance, on the asymmetry in the opportunities available to females to perpetrate lone
wolf terrorism. This is supplemented by the addition of gender difference variables to the standard utility model.
This treatment of opportunities and choices is open to criticism. In particular, an argument that asymmetric
opportunities may account for the gender gap is, at best, an incomplete explanation and, secondly, the addition
of gender variables to the utility function cannot account for the complex interactions between gender and other
relevant variables such as identity, race and class. Although gender is the primary characteristic of any
identifiable gender gap, recent research acknowledges that the centrality of gender in the analysis of the gender
gap in criminal and violent behaviour overshadows a more complex set of interactions.
This paper is centred on two fundamental methodological questions. Is it really the case that an asymmetry in
opportunities can explain why only one female has been identified as a lone wolf terrorist in the United States?
In a model of choice under risk and uncertainty, can the uniquely gendered lived experiences of women be
encompassed by augmenting the expected utility function by the addition of a ‘gender’ variable? Although
opportunities and the choices that people make when confronted with a set of opportunities are fundamental to a
full analytical framework for terrorist behaviour, there are inherent rigidities within the theoretical constructs
and within the traditional approaches to the application of those constructs that must be resolved if the analytical
tools are to be made to deal with more subtle and complex problems such as lone wolf terrorism and, in
particular, the asymmetry in occurrences of male-female perpetrated lone wolf terrorism. After we identify the
male-female offender ratio that characterises lone wolf terrorism in the United States and review the ongoing
debates within criminology regarding the gender gap in violent offending, we discuss and critique the orthodox
response of economic analysis.
2 Landes (1978), Sandler et al. (1983), Im et al. (1987), Enders et al. (1992), Enders and Sandler (2002), Frey and
Leuchinger (2003), Sandler and Arce (2003), Sandler and Enders (2004), Siqueira and Sandler (2006), Barros,
Proenca, Faria and Gil-Alana (2007), Llussa and Tavares (2008), Phillips (2009), Brandt and Sandler (2010),
Schneider et al. (2010), Kollias et al. (2011), Freytag et al. (2011), Kis-Katos et al. (2011), Santifort, Sandler and
3 See Victoroff (2005) for a review of the psychological literature.
4 See Turk (2004) for a discussion of the emergence of the study of terrorism within sociology.
LaFree and Dugan (2004), Rausch and LaFree (2007), Canter and Youngs (2009), Agnew (2010), Phillips and Pohl
6 Crenshaw (1981), Pape (2003) and (2005), Cronin (2006), Hoffman (2006) and Abrahms (2006, 2008, 2011).
2. The Ratio of Male-Female Perpetrated Lone Wolf Terrorism in the United States
The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) identifies ‘individual offenders’ as the perpetrators of 141 terrorist
attacks in the United States between 1970 and 2013. The data includes the actions of multiple repeat offenders
some of whom fit the definition of lone wolf terrorism better than others. For example, Timothy McVeigh is
listed as an individual offender by the GTD but he did not act completely independently and his association with
accomplices means that he would often be excluded from a list of lone wolf terrorists. These definitional points
aside, terrorism perpetrated by individuals without identifiable links to known terrorist groups has been
increasing since the 1980s. There were 25 attacks perpetrated by individuals in the 1970s, 23 in the 1980s, 44 in
the 1990s and 49 in the 2000s. A more complete narrative, which further reveals why government security
officials have expressed concerns about lone wolf terrorism7
, centres on the number of injuries and fatalities
inflicted by these individual offenders as a proportion of the total number of injuries and fatalities attributable to
acts of terrorism.
When we look beyond the number of incidences of lone wolf terrorism, which have been relatively few in
number, we find that, despite this, individual offenders have generally dominated the share of inflicted injuries
and fatalities. During the 1970s, there were 174 fatalities attributable to acts of terrorism in the United States.
163—94 percent—of these fatalities were victims of terrorist groups. In the 1980s, 45 fatalities were attributed
to acts of terrorism. In that decade, 33—74 percent—were victims of terrorist groups. In the 1990s, these
percentage shares of inflicted fatalities were reversed. In the 1990s, individual offenders without affiliations
with known terrorist groups accounted for 191—80 percent—of victims. During the 2000s, this trend continued
and individual offenders were responsible for 27—72 percent—of the 37 fatalities attributable to acts of
terrorism other than the 9/11 attacks during the period 2000 to 2013. This data, sourced from the GTD, shows
that individual offenders have been able to inflict a relatively large share of injuries and fatalities and, what is
more, these victims have been accumulated by a relatively small number of individual offenders in a relatively
small number of terrorist attacks8
What we cannot see from the aggregated statistics is the ratio of male-female perpetrated lone wolf terrorism.
The Instituut voor Veiligheids en Crisismanagement (2007) compiled a list of those lone wolf terrorists who
have been confirmed as the perpetrators of lone wolf terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. The list
adheres to a strong definition of lone wolf terrorism and only includes individuals who have acted completely
independently without accomplices and without links to any terrorist group. For the United States, for the period
1950 to 2012, we find 27 offender names. Only one of these offenders is female. This is Rachelle Shannon who
was convicted for the attempted murder of an abortion clinic doctor in Wichita, Kansas in 1993. Shannon was
38 years old when she shot Dr George Tiller, one of America’s best-known providers of late term abortions
(Gibbs 2009). His clinic had been the staging ground for both pro-life and pro-choice protests. In 1991, the
protests attracted significant numbers, perhaps in excess of 30,000 people (Hull 1991). Rachelle Shannon is one
7 See Associated Press (2011).
The GTD lists 292 terrorist attacks in the United States in the 1990s. Individual offenders were the perpetrators on
44 occasions. The GTD lists 174 attacks in the United States in the 2000s. Individual offenders were the perpetrators
on 49 occasions.
of several anti-abortion activists whose actions have been categorised as acts of terrorism. During one of the
protests, Shannon emerged from the confusion and shot Tiller. He was struck twice but survived. Later, in 1995,
Shannon also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of arson and acid attacks targeting abortion clinics across the
United States, including in Oregon, California, Nevada and Idaho (Washington Post 1994).
The gender gap that so clearly characterises lone wolf terrorism in the United States is one of the starkest
manifestations of the gender gap that generally characterises participation in crime, especially violent crime.
That males commit violent crime at higher rates than females is what Lauritsen, Heimer and Lynch (2009,
p.362) call one of the few undisputed facts in criminology. The considerable debate concerning the extent of the
gender gap in male-female crime participation rates and whether or not the gender gap has narrowed or widened
over time has produced a significant amount of empirical analysis that can be used to place the gender gap in
American lone wolf terrorism into context. In many cases the underlying data is available from the Federal
Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and the Department of Justice National Crime
Victimisation Survey (NCVS). In 2012, the UCR data continued to reflect the longstanding trends in violent
offending. Of the 8,514 people arrested for murder, 89 percent or 7,549 were males. This trend is mirrored in
arrest rates for the much more common violent offense of aggravated assault where of the 301,065 people were
arrested 232,041 were males. Across all types of crime, including robbery, larceny and fraud, 9,446,660 people
were arrested in the United States in 2012. 74 percent of them were males.
Of relevance to our discussion are the instances in which females acted as the sole offender in a violent crime
rather than as a member of a group. The gender gap in violent crime is greater for crimes committed by a single
offender. Lauritsen et al. (2009) reported that females engaging in violent crime did so at the rate of about 25
percent of the male participation rate in 2005 when the offense was committed by multiple offenders. For single
offender offenses in the same year, the female participation rate was 18 percent of the male rate. Furthermore,
starting in the early 1990s, the female-to-male participation in violent offenses as part of a group of offenders
increased by about 65 percent. The same rate for violent offenses perpetrated as a sole offender increased by
about 20 percent. Females are far less likely to participate in violent crime than males. When females do
participate, they are more likely to offend as part of a multiple-offender group than as an individual or sole
offender. The gender gap that characterises lone wolf terrorism, it is clear, simply reflects the longer term trends
in the aggregated statistics that show a low female-to-male participation rate in violent crime and a lower still
participation rate when that violent crime is perpetrated independently.
Explaining the lower female participation rate in illegitimate activity is a difficult task that is far from complete.
Part of the reason for this is that the type of explanation sought and offered differs depending on whether one
believes the gender gap is stable or decreasing and for what reasons. The reasons need not be behavioural but
may centre more on police practices. This ambiguity and debate arises because measuring changes in the gender
gap over time is not straightforward. Over time, different research teams have declared the gender gap to be
decreasing, stable and increasing on the basis of similar (or the same) underlying datasets. Researchers began
reporting a closing of the gender gap as early as the late 1970s. This conclusion was reached not only for less
serious types of crime but also for the types of violent crime that had been most often categorised as ‘masculine’
(see for example, Adler 1975 and Bruck 1975). The explanation offered at the time was that the roles played by
women in crime were changing in ways that reflected broader changes in women’s roles within society
throughout the period from 1960 to 1975 (Steffensmeier 1980, p.1081).
Conclusions that the gender gap in criminal behaviour was narrowing were questioned in an empirical study
undertaken by Steffensmeier (1980) which drew on UCR data for the period 1965 to 1977. Steffensmeier
concluded that, “Speculation aside, it is probably safest to conclude that sex differences in adult criminality
show very little change over the past decade and a half” (Steffensmeier 1980, p.1099). Steffensmeier (1980,
p.1099) argued that sex roles and the position of women within society had not changed significantly during the
period under consideration or at least not in ways that would contribute to a greater participation by women in
illegitimate activity. Steffensmeier (1980, p.1099) cited several studies, including those by Blake (1974) and
Weitz (1977), that suggested that even though there had been some enhanced egalitarianism in attitudes towards
female roles and some liberation from the traditional ‘wife-mother’ role, female roles had remained reasonably
traditional and that a ‘masculine turn’ in the sex role had not been observed.
Recently, two teams of researchers have engaged vigorously in the debate, Lauritsen, Heimer and Lynch (2009)
and Schwartz, Steffensmeier, Zhong and Ackerman (2009)9
. Part of the reason why debate over the stability of
the ratio of female-to-male participation in violent crimes has been so strong is that the conclusions that may be
reached on the basis of the two main sources of data, the UCR and the National Crime Victimisation Survey
(NCVS), appear to be sensitive to the methodology that different researchers have chosen, particularly in
separating out the number and role of female offenders in crimes perpetrated by groups. Broadly speaking, the
UCR arrest rates do appear to show an increase in female-to-male arrests for violent crime. However, the NCVS
appears to indicate no increase in the ratio of females-to-males being identified as the offender by victims of
violent crime. The Schwartz et al. (2009) and Steffensmeier et al. (2006) research teams argue that the increase
in the female-to-male arrest rates for violent crimes is due to increasing numbers of female arrests for assault
with no increase in the female-to-male arrest rate for ‘predatory violent crimes’. The researchers offer a ‘policy
change’ explanation for the increased number of female arrests for assault. Laws, police practices and policies
have changed in ways that make police more prone to arrest and charge people, including females, with assault
(Steffensmeier et al. 2006, p.88).
Steffensmeier et al.’s (2006) conclusion that the decline in the gender gap for violent offending is an artefact
emerging as a result of changes in police practices and policies dealing with the treatment of assaults rather than
a real change in criminal behaviour, has been challenged by Lauritsen et al. (2009). Lauritsen et al. (2009)
believe that drawing conclusions regarding the gender gap from the NCVS data necessitates a series of
methodological steps which may distort the results. Lauritsen et al. (2009) investigate exactly the same problem
as Steffensmeier et al. (2009) using almost the same NCVS data but they reach a different conclusion. Although
they agree that males offend at greater rates than females and that there has been no increase in female
offending, they disagree with the conclusion that the gender gap has remained stable. Lauritsen et al. (2009)
argue that the gender gap for violent crime has narrowed as a result of smaller decreases in female offending
Also see Steffensmeier, Zhong, Ackerman, Schwartz and Agha (2006).
relative to male offending in the midst of a long-term decline in overall rates of crime. This conclusion relies
heavily on data concerning non-lethal violent crime including aggravated assault, robbery and simple assault.
Lauritsen et al. (2009) maintain that their methodological approach to extracting estimates from the NCVS
database on female-to-male participation rates is sound and, in fact, draws a line under the debate. They
recommend the investigation of behavioural explanations for the decline in the gender gap as the most important
task for future research. Schwartz et al. (2009) responded to Lauritsen et al. (2009) in the very same journal
Behavioural (and non-behavioural) explanations for female perpetrated crime and female perpetrated terrorism
are still in development. The problem is made more complex by lingering stereotypes and the portrayals of
female criminal behaviour in the press that appear to give an inaccurate impression of the extent to which
females involve in violent illegitimate activities. To dispel some of these stereotypes, Jacques and Taylor (2013)
undertook an investigation of data on 222 female terrorists and 269 male terrorists to identify similarities and
differences in age of first involvement, education, employment, immigration status, marital status, religious
conversion, criminal activity and activist connections. The researchers found that, contrary to some aspects of
the conventional wisdom, female terrorists are not isolated, uneducated individuals detached from society.
Among female terrorists, there were low rates of immigration and single status. Education and employment rates
were high. However, Jacques and Taylor (2013) also uncover some important gender differences in some of the
variables they considered.
Although rates of unemployment among female terrorists were low, female terrorists were less likely to be
employed than male terrorists. In addition, other important gender differences were found. Female terrorists
were less likely to be religious converts, they were less likely to be immigrants and more likely to be widowed
or divorced than male terrorists. Interestingly, female terrorists were more often found to have family
connections to terrorism. Almost one-third of the female terrorists in Jacques and Taylor’s (2013) sample had
such connections. A recent example is Naida Asiyalova who was named as a female suicide bomber responsible
for an attack in Russia in October 2013. According to Associated Press (2013), she was the spouse of rebel
leader Dmitry Sokolov. This finding, that female terrorists often have family connections to terrorism, has
implications for their participation in lone wolf terrorism. Female perpetrated terrorism arising from pre-existing
familial links with terrorism may rule out the categorisation of many female perpetrated acts of terrorism as
independently motivated and initiated lone wolf attacks. This would seem to carry an implicit assumption about
the agency of female terrorists. We discuss this further in the following section.
Beyond measurable variables and parameters such as employment and income, the analysis of female
participation in violent crime has come to recognise what have been termed to ‘uniquely gendered lived
experiences’ of women (see Wesley 2006). Experiences moulded by socialisation patterns, gender roles and
institutions, shape female expressions of violence (Wesley 2006, p.306). Because of this, female perpetrated
violence is more ‘intricate’ than male perpetrated violence. Wesley (2006, p.325), for example, identifies the
refusal to be further victimised as being fundamental to the motivations of female offenders. Other
With a rejoinder from Heimer, Lauritsen and Lynch (2009).
considerations are less visible. Kruttschnitt and Carbone-Lopez (2006) discuss the role of institutions, including
media, courts and social science research in creating gendered hierarchies. For Kruttschnitt and Carbone-Lopez
(2006) it is important to re-establish female offenders’ agency. Female perpetrated violence is not pre-
determined by historical victimisation or any other factor. In fact, they argue that the ‘gender centrality’ of the
debate may obscure the similarities between male and female offending. Kruttschnitt and Carbone-Lopez (2006)
argue that female and male offending emerge from the similar personal and political concerns. This implies that
gender interacts with a complex set of variables and simplistic approaches to explain the gender gap in female-
male participation in illegitimate activity may be doomed to failure. By placing the gender gap in lone wolf
offending in this context, we provide a background against which the penetration of economic analysis into the
problem—its ability, inter alia, to treat uniquely gendered lived experiences—may be assessed.
3. Economic Analysis and the Gender Gap in Lone Wolf Terrorism
Neoclassical economic analysis claims to be ‘gender neutral’ in the sense that its flagship models of decision-
making—utility theory and expected utility theory—are indifferent to gender (Hewitson 1999, p.3). The
implication is that male and female decision-makers are treated completely equally within the analytical
frameworks of neoclassical economics. If this is true, this could place economic analysis in the enviable position
of providing a set of analytical tools that are free from biases introduced by the embedding of value judgements
within the analytical structure. Even if this is true, there is a possible downside. If there are real gender
differences that must be accounted for within an analysis of individual decision-making, questions are raised
about the capability of an analytical framework that is ‘blind’ to such differences (even in the good sense) to
account for them analytically. We seek to address the relevance of these questions to the gender gap that
characterises lone wolf terrorism11
. In order to do this, we must present a brief overview of the neoclassical
approach to the analysis to terrorism.
It must be noted at the outset that neoclassical economics is the current orthodoxy in economic theory but its
methodology is not accepted by all economists12
. The neoclassical or orthodox approach to the economic
analysis of terrorism applies a mathematical variant of utility theory to terrorists’ decision-making13
approach has its origins in the avant-garde theoretical developments of the 1960s when utility theory was
applied to a new and wider set of problems. Gary Becker was at the forefront of these developments and his
applications of expected utility theory to a number of different social problems and types of individual
behaviour included an analysis of criminal behaviour. The idea that underlies the economic logic of choice is
simple and relatively uncontroversial. Individuals have objectives or ends. This could be something as simple as
alleviating thirst or hunger or getting some exercise. These objectives are ranked in order of preference. If the
individual is very hungry, steps will be taken to alleviate hunger first. Then if resources, including time, permit,
The discussion applies to terrorism in general. Our emphasis on lone wolf terrorism is due to the stark asymmetry
that is evident in the list of perpetrators of American lone wolf terrorism.
An excellent overview of the methodological debates in economics is contained in Caldwell (1982).
Utility theory is a theory of choice that may be presented non-mathematically in verbal logic. The logic of economic
choice says that people arrange their scarce means purposefully in order to achieve their ends. Utility is the
satisfaction or happiness that derives from the attainment of an end. Mises (1949) and Rothbard (1962) are the
prominent examples of the ‘chain of verbal logic’ approach. Their work also contains critiques of neoclassical
economics, especially its emphasis on applying to economics the analytical methods of Newtonian physics.
he or she might go for a walk or go to the gymnasium. Attaining one’s objectives requires choice because
resources are scarce. The purposeful behaviour of arranging resources in order to achieve an end is the keystone
of economic behaviour.
When a decision involves risk and uncertainty, the individual must guess at the likely outcomes of an action and
the chances that the end or objective will actually be achieved. Since this involves an expectation or guess about
the future, the means-ends logic of choice under risk and uncertainty has come to be called expected utility
theory. The mathematisation of economic theory has been carried out to a very great extent and a substantial
part of that development has taken place in the field of expected utility theory. Perhaps the single greatest
obstacle that stood in the path of this process was the problem of whether there existed a class of mathematical
functions that could determine a preference ordering over risky alternatives. It is one thing to prefer ‘getting a
sandwich’ to ‘going for a walk’ or vice versa. It is another thing entirely to rank different ‘gambles’ or ‘lotteries’
each with different odds and different payoffs. Was it possible to determine a preference ordering of, say, the
chance $1000 with probability 0.40 and $0 with probability 0.60 and a different lottery offering the chance of
$2000 with probability 0.10 and $0 with probability 0.90? Von Neumann and Morgenstern (1944) answered in
the affirmative and in the process set down a set of axioms—the von Neumann and Morgenstern (NM)
axioms—of ‘rational’ choice.
In principle, the theoretical idea remains simple. Using a particular utility function selected from the class of
mathematical functions consistent with the NM axioms, the utility of each outcome, x, of a risky choice is
determined and weighted by the probability, p, of that outcome occurring. The sum of probability-weighted
utilities gives the expected utility of a risky choice which may be ranked against the expected utilities of other
alternative risky choices. Formally, expected utility is determined as:
̅ ∑ ( )
The utility function ( ) that determines the utility of an outcome, x, may take any one of a number of popular
specifications including quadratic, logarithmic or exponential form. The theoretical achievement with which
Becker is credited is the application of this theoretical framework to risky choices that had traditionally lain
outside of the scope of economic analysis. In Becker (1968) he applied the theory to criminal behaviour by
casting the decision to engage in criminal activity as one where the payoffs to legitimate and illegitimate actions
could be ranked on the basis of expected utility and a decision made on the basis of an objective to maximise
expected utility subject to constraints.
Along with Ehrlich (1973), Becker’s (1968) application of expected utility theory to the analysis of criminal
behaviour focuses on the choice between legitimate and illegitimate behaviour. The relevant preference ordering
is just a ranking of these two alternatives. The individual considers the outcomes of each choice and the
likelihood that each outcome will occur. If the expected utility of the illegitimate behaviour exceeds that of
legitimate behaviour, the individual will engage in criminal behaviour. The outcomes are usually measured in
terms of a ‘monetary equivalent’ to provide a common unit of analysis. In both Ehrlich’s and Becker’s
treatments, the decision-maker considers the positive monetary payoffs to legitimate and illegitimate activity
and the negative monetary equivalent payoffs of apprehension and the imposition of penalties, including
imprisonment. Ehrlich’s (1973) analysis is more sophisticated and encompasses other aspects of criminal
behaviour, including the apportionment of time between legitimate and illegitimate activity as an important
decision variable in order to take into consideration the fact that many criminals also maintain legitimate
employment and vice versa or drift in and out of crime over time. The theoretical analysis provides the basis for
empirical analysis. If, using historical data, the economist can estimate values for relevant variables in the model
such as average monetary payoffs to particular crimes, the probability of success or failure and the probability of
imprisonment if apprehended, the expected utility theory provides a framework for examining the possible
impact of increases in penalties or increases in policing resources on the rate of participation in illegitimate
At the heart of this type of theoretical work is the argument that criminal activity is sensitive to incentives. Both
Becker and Ehrlich see this as one of the main points and one of the main achievements of their analysis. Becker
(1968, p.170) says, “It is suggested, for example, that a useful theory of criminal behaviour can dispense with
special theories of anomie, psychological inadequacies, or inheritance of special traits and simply extend the
economist’s usual analysis of choice.” Similarly, Ehrlich (1973, p.522) says:
A reliance on a motivation unique to the offender as a major explanation of actual crime does
not, in general, render possible predictions regarding the outcome of objective circumstances.
We are also unaware of any persuasive empirical evidence reported in the literature in
support of theories using this approach. Our alternative point of reference, although not
necessarily incompatible, is that even if those who violate certain laws differ systematically
in various respects from those who abide by the same laws, the former, like the latter, do
respond to incentives. Rather than resort to hypotheses regarding unique personal
characteristics and social conditions affecting respect for the law, penchant for violence,
preference for risk, or general preference for crime, one may separate the latter from
measurable opportunities and see to what extent illegal behaviour can be explained by the
effect of opportunities given preferences.
The most straightforward type of incentive that might be considered is money or wealth. For certain types of
crime, money or wealth might very well be the end that the individual aims to achieve. For certain acts of
terrorism, where ransoms are demanded, this might also be the case. However, even where there might be a
monetary payoff from a criminal action, there are important non-monetary payoffs associated with the types of
decisions analysed by Becker and Ehrlich. For example, the negative utility that is presumably associated with
prison sentences is not something that may be naturally expressed in monetary terms. In order to provide a
common unit of measurement across different decision variables and to provide a unit of measurement for
variables that do not appear to have an obvious unit of their own economists make use of the analytical device
of a ‘monetary equivalent’ whereby non-monetary payoffs such as political influence are assumed to be capable
of being expressed in monetary units.
Increases in penalties or increases in the likelihood of apprehension should decrease the expected utility of
illegitimate activity for a risk-averse offender in the absence of compensating increases in the monetary rewards to
Some of the earliest examples of the extension of Becker and Ehrlich’s analysis to the study of terrorism focus
most of their attention on acts of terrorism that have a significant monetary component. Landes (1978)
concentrates on airplane hijacking where ransoms and passage to Cuba were the main objectives and Sandler,
Tschirhart and Cauley (1983) focus on hostage-taking scenarios where, once more, ransoms are identified as the
main objective. More recent studies accept that terrorists have a wider range of objectives (Abrahms 2006, 2008,
2011). Monetary equivalents remain in use, particularly when a general category of payoffs such as ‘political
influence’ is treated as the source of utility and the terrorist’s objective. Enders and Sandler (2002) express
political influence in terms of a monetary equivalent. Other researchers have argued that because both the words
and deeds of terrorists indicate that they seek to inflict harm in the form of injuries and fatalities the payoffs can
be measured directly in terms of injuries and fatalities expected to be inflicted by different types of terrorist
attack methods. This portrays the terrorist’s decision as a risky choice from a set of available attack methods
each of which is expected to inflict some range of injuries and fatalities (Phillips 2009; Phillips 2013).
The expected utility analysis of choices that terrorists make from a set of available opportunities represents one
part of the economic analysis of terrorism. The second dominant research program involves the analysis of
choice in contexts where the terrorists and the government interact with other strategically. For this, economists
naturally began to explore applications of the branch of mathematics known as game theory. We say ‘naturally’
because game theory had traditionally been used to analyse situations involving strategic interaction and it also
had a history of being applied to problems related to national security. In many ways, game theoretical analysis
of terrorist behaviour is more straightforward than the analysis of choices from some opportunity set. The
payoffs are hypothetical and must be arranged in a manner that permits of (1) economic interpretation; and (2)
mathematical analysis. Once an appropriate payoffs matrix is developed that can be applied analogously to a
particular type of real-world scenario, the mathematical solutions that emerge also apply analogously to
whatever real-world scenario is being portrayed. For example, Arce and Sandler (2005, p.185)15
explain how the
choice between deterrence and pre-emption by two countries, can be depicted as being analogous to the well-
known game of strategy called ‘prisoner’s dilemma’. The game is solved by finding the Nash equilibrium
point(s). Within the payoff structure of the game, the players are assumed to be attempting to maximise the
expected utility of their payoffs. The underlying theory of decision-making under risk and uncertainty, expected
utility theory, remains in force.
Faced with a set of opportunities, the terrorist is an individual who has chosen to undertake a terrorist activity.
From the economist’s point of view this choice has been taken because he or she wants to achieve some end or
objective and sees terrorism or a particular type of terrorist activity or a particular type of target16
as the ‘best’
way to achieve this end. Terrorism could be a means to an end or the end itself. In the one case, the preference
ordering accords the highest ranking to an objective such as ‘ransom’ or ‘political influence’ and a particular
type of terrorist activity is chosen because it is the best way in which scarce means may be arranged to obtain
‘ransom’ or ‘political influence’. In the other case, the individual’s preference ordering accords ‘terror’ the
highest ranking among feasible alternatives, where alternatives might include legitimate activism or engagement
Also see Sandler and Arce (2003).
The ‘opportunity set’ may be defined over any or all of these things.
in ordinary law abiding activities. A particular type of terrorist activity is chosen as the best way of achieving
the objective of instilling terror. In all cases, there is an opportunity set that is defined or delineated analytically
or empirically and the terrorist is assumed to make a choice from the available opportunities in a manner that
maximises expected utility and to direct resources purposefully to the achievement of the chosen end or
objective. There is, therefore, one obvious way in which economic analysis may respond to the gender gap in
violent offending, whether it is in violent crime or terrorism or lone wolf terrorism.
The response is that female offenders do not face the same opportunities as male offenders17
. The opportunity
set for female offenders is different from or is a sub-set of the opportunity set for male offenders. With more
opportunities to commit crime male offenders are observed to offend at a greater rate. If the opportunity set for
females broadens or contracts, the gender gap will be observed to shrink or expand. For certain types of criminal
activity, the opportunity sets will overlap to a lesser or greater degree and there may be changes in this degree of
overlap over time. This is depicted in Figure 1 where opportunities are ‘normalised’ by comparing them solely
on the basis of two characteristics: (1) the mean or average outcome; and (2) the standard deviation or risk. The
result is two elliptical-shaped opportunity sets representing a situation where there is a positive trade-off
between risk and reward.
Fig.1. Distinct Male and Female Opportunity Sets
In Figure 1, the opportunity set, M, confronted by the male offender is set to the right of that confronted by the
female offender. If the opportunity sets represent the risks and rewards associated with using different attack
methods, this implies that the higher-risk-higher-reward attack methods are not accessible to female offenders.
The female offender’s expected utility is maximised at A and the male offender’s utility is maximised at B. The
choices are different because the opportunities are different. What if the opportunities are the same? If both male
Eide (1994) talks briefly about opportunities when discussing the female-to-male participation rates in criminal
activity (not solely violent activity). Whilst economic analysis must still justify and defend its models of decision-
making when they are applied to criminal choice, there are many categories of crime for which the pre-requisite of
accounting for differences in participation between groups is not salient. An interesting question though, is whether
economic analysis would suggest, in these cases, that a similar participation rate implies that the opportunities to
commit an offense are equal across groups.
and female offenders confronted the opportunity set M their choices could still be different. The optimal choice
may not be the same for two different people. In this depiction of choice, the female offender is characterised as
being more risk averse than the male offender (see below). Her indifference curves are steeper. Confronted with
the opportunity set M she would choose C. Both individuals choose in a manner that maximises expected utility
but the differences in their risk preferences lead them to a different choice.
This example goes beyond simply illustrating the ways in which opportunities and choices may differ between
different individuals. The example highlights the two fundamental issues that confront economic analysis in
attempting to deal with the gender gap in lone wolf terrorism. First, opportunities may be different between
males and females. However, this does not necessarily provide an operational explanation for the gender gap. It
would not be possible to provide unqualified advice to law enforcement and security agencies with regards to
the potential choices of female lone wolf terrorists without a further investigation of the ways in which the
opportunity sets diverge. The orthodox response of economic analysis to the gender gap might be viewed,
therefore, as a starting point but not a complete operational explanation. Second, inherent gender differences
may shape rational choice even when opportunities are the same. Figure 1 depicts a hypothetical situation in
which there are gender differences in risk preference which lead to a divergence in female-male choice from the
same opportunity set, a conclusion that is supported by empirical and experimental evidence (Charness and
Gneezy 2012 and Powell and Ansic 1997). Once more, however, this is an analytical starting point and an
analytical challenge that must be overcome in order to yield operationally relevant conclusions. Risk preference
may not be the only relevant decision-making variable that is characterised by gender difference.
There are then two matters for economic analysis to address: (1) male-female opportunity set divergence; and
(2) gender differences that influence choice even when the decision-makers face the same opportunity set. Of
course, opportunity set divergence and gender differences may interact simultaneously. Let us separate the two
for the time being and discuss the male-female opportunity set divergence. Do males have more or different
opportunities than females to commit violent crimes like rape, murder and acts of lone wolf terrorism?18
question is answered in the affirmative and if there is a distinct male opportunity set and a distinct female
opportunity set for violent crime, economic analysis must delineate these sets before applying its standard
models of choice to the distinct analysis of male and female offenders, remembering that gender differences
may still need to be taken into account. Opportunity sets that are empirical-historical in nature rather than purely
theoretical will be male-centric if the opportunity set has been constructed on the basis of an historical record of
violent crimes that have been predominantly committed by male offenders. It would not be meaningful to talk of
a choice from that set by a ‘terrorist’ as a general gender-neutral analytical category of offender.
The question of whether males have more opportunities to commit violent crime than females is a difficult one
to answer and by addressing the gender gap by reference to the differences in opportunities that males and
females confront, economic analysis does erect something of a bulwark against criticism, at least so far as pure
theory is concerned. Gender differences or what Wesley (2006) calls ‘uniquely gendered lived experiences’ that
18 Some economists might be willing to draw the inference that the historical record—which for violent crimes
exhibits a clear gender gap—is itself evidence that there are differences in opportunities that confront male and
influence the choices that males and females present something of a bigger challenge to economics both
theoretically and empirically. These uniquely gendered lived experiences potentially enter the analysis on both
the ‘opportunity side’ and the ‘decision-making side’19
. Both opportunities and the ways in which women
perceive and respond to those opportunities may be shaped by the uniquely gendered lived experiences of
women in ways that are relevant to explanations not only of the gender gap but also the types of choices that
female offenders make in the course of perpetrating a violent crime and, possibly, why some women may turn to
violence in the first place (Ajzenstadt 2009).
The analytical treatment of gender differences may take two paths: (1) the non-agentic path; or (2) the agentic
path. Sometimes the two paths merge, even in economic analysis. Non-agentic approaches to incorporating
gender differences into theoretical and empirical work attribute decisions or choices to factors that lie outside of
the decision-maker’s agency. Agentic approaches accept that gender differences may shape an individual’s
choice but do not take away the decision-maker’s agency. In the example discussed previously, differences in
risk preferences may lead to a divergence of male-female optimal choices from the same opportunity set but the
agent is still free to choose and, of course, economic analysis does not say that the optimal choice will always be
made. The agentic approach contrasts markedly with a non-agentic stream that is detectable in the criminology
literature. Non-agentic explanations of female perpetrated violence attribute it to “…biological defects,
hormonal influences or, more recently, psychological syndromes that emerge from a history of severe
victimisation” (Kruttschnitt and Carbone-Lopez 2006, p.322). Agentic approaches such as orthodox economic
analysis places offenders’ agency—self-knowing direction (Kruttschnitt and Carbone-Lopez 2006; Abrams
1995)—at the forefront of its theory of criminal behaviour. There is growing discontent with non-agentic
theories of violent behaviour (Kruttschnitt and Carbone-Lopez 2006).
Despite discontent with non-agentic theories, the agentic and non-agentic paths can sometimes appear to merge
in what might be called a quasi-agentic strain of economic theory. The augmented utility functions of quasi-
agentic economic theory may appear to assign a determining role to a particular psychological-sociological
factor by treating that factor as a filter for the opportunity set or, similarly, as a conduit through which different
psychological-sociological factors may shape the opportunity set. Depending on the extent to which this is
filtering or shaping occurs, the choices that people make may be from such a narrow range of filtered
opportunities that one may begin to question what remains of agency. Akerlof and Kranton’s (2000) ‘identity’
paper is an example where identity shapes the opportunities that individuals are presented with. The purpose of
their work is to show that neoclassical economics is flexible enough to incorporate a factor such as ‘identity’.
They accomplish this by adding an identity term to the standard utility function such that utility depends on the
individual’s actions, the actions of others and ‘identity’20
. The individual may suffer gains and losses in identity
19 An example of the first case might be a situation where females have less access to firearms than males. An example
of the second case might be a situation where females have equal access in principle but do not access firearms at the
same rates as males because collecting guns is viewed as masculine (see Wyant and Taylor 2007).
20 Akerlof and Kranton are careful to avoid too much theoretical interaction with related issues such as individual
motivation for action which has traditionally lain outside the scope of economic analysis. For example, a person may
choose to become a terrorist for some unknown reason. Psychology has no definitive explanation (Victoroff 2005)
and economists have thought it wiser to concentrate on explaining the choices of terrorists once they are terrorists
and, presumably, choose and act purposefully to achieve terrorist some objective. See Phillips and Pohl (2011) for a
which translate into gains and losses in utility. The authors claim that the model they develop explains another
gender related issue. This is the declining rate of occupational segregation since the 1970s which Akerlof and
Kranton (2000, p.732) suggest is due to changes in societal notions of ‘male’ and ‘female’.
One way of treating gender differences, then, is to augment the utility function such that the individual
maximises expected utility in the presence of an additional constraint. A second path by which economic
analysis might approach the problem is to explore further those areas in which it has already made some
progress in explaining differences in aggressive and violent behaviour between different groups. A large and
growing literature has emerged that criss-crosses economics, mathematics, theoretical biology and evolutionary
theory. Some of this work attempts to explain the emergence of different types of conflict and its consequences
in particular contexts. Biological and evolutionary concepts such as fitness, group selection, spite, altruism and
gender effects are explored using game theory and equilibrium-based analysis21
. A combination of pure theory,
empirical and experimental work has generated significant contributions to our understanding of ways in which
particular behaviour emerges and the implications that it has for the individuals or groups who exhibit or
confront individuals who exhibit that behaviour. This work may play a useful role in highlighting the fact that
gender differences may shape both female and male choice. It is interesting to ask why, if economic analysis is
gender neutral, most of the ‘added variables’ are directed towards incorporating female behaviour into the
orthodox models of choice. When dealing with violent, predatory behaviour, there may very well be a need to
enhance the masculinity of rational economic man22
. It should be noted, however, that non-agentic behaviour or,
in this context, biological determinism is not implied by any research that has been undertaken regarding the
predominance of male perpetrated violence (Seabright 2010, p.322).
After all that we have said, what are the implications for the economic analysis of the gender gap in lone wolf
terrorism? First, there are implications for the way in which economic analysis may approach this and other
gender gaps. An economist’s explanation for the gender gap in lone wolf terrorism might be based on (1)
differences in opportunities; (2) opportunities that are reshaped by uniquely gendered lived experiences; or (3)
gender differences that lead to a divergence in the optimal choices of males and females even if the opportunity
set from which they are choosing is the same and, of course, ceteris paribus. Second, there are implications for
the interpretation of extant economic analysis of lone wolf terrorism. The opportunity sets that form the basis for
the economic analysis of lone wolf terrorism are male centric. Even though Phillips (2011; 2013) uses the
RAND-MIPT data rather than the history of lone wolf attacks in order to determine an opportunity set, most of
the attacks in that dataset were perpetrated by males. The analysis based on a male-centric opportunity set must
provide only qualified investigative advice regarding the choices that might be made by a female lone wolf
. Third, there are implications for the categories of economic analysis. There may be no such thing as a
21 See Konrad and Morath (2012).
22 For example, some aspects of male perpetrated predatory violence may be traced to aggressiveness towards sexual
rivals. See Seabright (2010) and his references which include Daly and Wilson (1988), Wrangham and Peterson
(1996), Barash (2002) and Barash and Lipton (2002).
Because Phillips (2011; 2013) uses a mean-variance or reward-risk type of analysis, differences in choices between
male and female offenders confronted with the same opportunity set might concentrate on differences in risk
preferences between males and females. If female offenders are more risk-averse they would choose lower payoff,
lower risk attacks. The only female perpetrated attack recorded in America’s history of lone wolf terrorism was such
an attack (attempted assassination).
gender neutral representative agent such as ‘the terrorist’ or ‘the terrorist group’. The failure to consider this
possibility may distort both theoretical and empirical work. The main challenge to male centricity of the
‘rational economic man’ is to be found in the emerging feminist economics literature.
4. Economic Analysis and the Gender Gap: Insights from Feminist Economics
From the point of view of this paper, the views of the feminist economists on the gender gap in female offending
and, probably more importantly, the shortcomings in orthodox economic analysis in dealing with it would be
most relevant. Unfortunately, this matter does not appear to have been discussed in any article published in the
discipline’s main journal, Feminist Economics. Nevertheless, a lot of the work that has been undertaken under
the banner of feminist economics touches on some of the same theoretical-methodological points that have been
discussed in previous sections of this paper. Within the feminist economics literature, perhaps the most relevant
line of criticism of the neoclassical approach to economic analysis concerns the male centricity of the ‘rational
economic man’ as a theoretical construct and the soundness of dealing with gender effects by the addition of
variables to existing equations and models. In this section, some of these debates are brought together and
placed in the context of the discussion that has been presented in this paper. The aim of the section is to identify
some of the insights that this heterodox approach to economic analysis may have for the development of
orthodox analysis of the gender gap in offending.
Because a significant strain of critique within feminist economics is directed towards the masculinity of ‘rational
economic man’ it is appropriate to introduce this line of critique at the outset. On the surface, this critique
appears to be another treatment of the old arguments against expected utility theory and, in particular, the
neoclassical and highly mathematized representation24
. But there is more to it than the argument that people are
not rational calculators. The focus is on the ‘gendered assumptions’ (Duncan and Edwards 1997) that are
contained within the orthodox representation of rational economic man and the consequences of these
assumptions for theory, empirical work and policy in certain contexts. Duncan and Edwards (1997), for
example, argue that the cost-benefit type of calculations that rational economic man is depicted as making are
secondary to the ‘gendered moral rationalities’ that shape the context within which those calculations are made.
Economic theory and empirical analysis that misrepresents the context produces a set of empirical results and
policy recommendations that do not reflect the underlying reasons for why particular decisions may be made,
particularly by women in certain situations25
. This line of argument, that economic analysis is missing
something, might be addressed in the manner described by Akerlof and Kranton (2000), which is by the
augmentation of the neoclassical utility function. However, this is not viewed as being satisfactory by feminist
The investigation of the complex interactions between variables such as race, gender and class has been
identified as one of the prime opportunities for feminist economists to make significant progress in areas that
traditional economics cannot or has not addressed. Focussing on the interaction of these variables leads Brewer,
The ‘rational choice hypothesis’ is not falsifiable. See Caldwell (1982).
Duncan and Edwards (1997) are exploring lone motherhood and the decision to take paid employment.
Conrad and King (2002) to criticise the compartmentalisation that characterises attempts by orthodox
economists such as Akerlof and Kranton (2000) to deal with gender, for instance, without considering the ways
in which the results of an analysis may be shaped by interactions between gender and race. The scope of
feminist economics, despite its attempts to develop a broader analytical framework, has been relatively limited
and concentrates a great deal of attention, not surprisingly, on labour market economics and particular issues
such as discrimination. These are areas where the calculations of rational economic man may not yield results
that accurately reflect the uniquely gendered lived experiences of women and the policy conclusions that are
produced by empirical analysis based on a non-inclusive decision-making model may be ineffective or harmful
to some members of society. Building analytical frameworks that more accurately reflect not only effects of
gender but the interactions between gender and race and class is a worthwhile research program that requires
something more substantial than an augmentation of the utility function or the associated econometric model.
This much is also true for the economic analysis of the gender gap in female-to-male participation in illegitimate
activity and violent offending, including terrorism. It is well known that no single personal, psychological,
sociological or economic variable explains either male or female participation in terrorist activity26
Perhaps one of the deepest critiques of the rational economic man that is offered by feminist economics is that
which highlights the inherent masculinity of the theoretical construct. This observation goes beyond a critique of
‘rationality’ and beyond a critique of economics’ ‘missing variables’. The inherent masculinity of rational
economic man is analysed by Hewitson (1999). Hewitson’s examination of the problem is considerable but a
dominant theme of her analysis is that the rational economic man of neoclassical27
economics is not a universal,
unsexed individual agent. Indeed, Hewitson (1999, p.145-167) argues that rational economic man, far from
being universal and unsexed, is in fact a construction that is essentially a man by nature of its exclusion of
femininity. The archetype example, of course, is the Robinson Crusoe character that has played a fundamental
role in the development of certain strands of economic analysis of individual choice. Hewitson (1999, p.163)
Although neoclassical economics denies an interest in bodies, and Crusoe’s personification
of the ‘universal’ individual is therefore viewed as distinct from his embodiment as a man,
once sexual difference is understood as a function of the socially constructed, lived
experience of the body, it is clear that Crusoe’s masculine body is not a meaningless
coincidence. Male bodies are already inscribed with meanings, and neoclassical texts cannot
disavow these meanings, or somehow exclude them or separate them from the other
meanings which are being produced. The male body and masculinity are constructed
discursively in opposition to, and valued at the expense of, the feminine, which is understood
as irrational, dependent, passive, vulnerable, and self-sacrificing. Thus a female Crusoe
would be problematic as an exemplar of rational economic man…
This line of critique is relevant to the analytical constructs and categories that are used in the economic analysis
of terrorism. If the rational economic agent of defence economics is a ‘man’ then economists would not be
justified in making the claim that their construct of the utility maximising individual applies without
qualification to any type of decision-maker. From the point of view of terrorism studies and the economic
26 Once more, see Victoroff (2005) for a review.
27 Neoclassical economics is the orthodoxy in economic science. Although often confused or conflated with the
Austrian School, feminist economics appears to have a more nuanced and, perhaps, closer relationship with the
Austrians (see Waller 1999).
analysis of terrorist behaviour, something would be missed by treating ‘the terrorist’ or ‘the terrorist group’ as
analytical categories without recognising that such categories may be inherently masculine. This would
potentially introduce into the economic analysis the other shortcomings identified by feminist economists.
Of course, one might argue that because most violent offenders are male, and this is especially true of lone wolf
terrorists, economic analysis has fewer challenges in this domain than it does in its investigations of the labour
market, for example. In short, if most violent offenders are male, then economic analysis is positioned
appropriately even though this position was achieved naively. Apart from being a stand-point that could stifle
promising future developments in this area, this argument overlooks what might be the most relevant point to
emerge from our discussion. Let us frame it in the context of lone wolf terrorism. Although their numbers are
few, there have been female lone wolf terrorists. They have perpetrated acts of violence that it is a task of
economic analysis to provide analysis of in the aim of assisting law enforcement agencies to pre-empt the
terrorist action or pursue the perpetrator. Law enforcement agencies would, ideally, like access to sound analysis
of such important terrorist choice considerations as the targets that might be chosen, the location that might be
chosen or the attack method or weapon that might be chosen. Economic analysis provides answers to these
questions by exploring the decisions that an individual would make when confronted with a set of opportunities.
If the analysis is built on consideration of a male-centric opportunity set from the point of view of a male
decision-maker economic analysis may not be able to provide unqualified answers to these questions when the
offender is female.
5. Conclusions: Directions for Economic Analysis
Female violent offenders are in the minority but understanding their behaviour and their choices is not only
necessary for the development of a complete economic analysis of terrorist decision-making. Developing our
understanding of the gender gap in violent offending may lead to new insights into the decisions of both male
and female terrorists. At the moment, orthodox economic analysis tends to utilise constructs that are portrayed
as universal but may in fact be characterised by particular male-centricities. The realisation that this may be the
case is in itself an important step for orthodox analysis. Some of the steps that might be taken to incorporate
uniquely gendered lived experiences into models of terrorist choice for use in contexts where the female
offender is the subject of analysis or where females play active roles in the decisions made by terrorist groups
involve the augmentation of the standard utility function along the lines described by Akerlof and Kranton
(2000). For a number of reasons, not least the fact that this might overlook interactions between gender and
other variables, feminist economists prefer an approach that does not simply involve adding variables to an
existing utility function or econometric model. Another feminist perspective is found in the feminist
criminology literature when Wesley (2006, p.304) quotes Chesney-Lind and Pasko (2004, p.21):
Feminist theories of crime and delinquency must account for the myriad ways that gender
matters. It is more than mere insertion of gender as a variable or brief commentary of “girls’
or women’s issues.”
The first response of economic analysis to the gender gap, which is to highlight the relevance of opportunities,
avoids this criticism. It is not enough, however, for economic analysis to simply state that the differences in
male and female violent offending are due to differences in the opportunities that male and female offenders
confront. Although this argument has an advantage in the sense that it is able to offer an explanation both for the
existence of a gender gap and fluctuations in it, especially a narrowing of the gender gap over time, it would
appear to be an incomplete response to the problem and one that frustrates further attempts to explore the
female-to-male participation rate in illegitimate activity in greater economic analytical detail. This should not
mean that differences in the nature of the opportunity sets that confront male and female offenders—starting
from the position that such differences do indeed exist—should not attract further attention from economists
seeking to explore the nature of female offenders’ choices within an economic framework. In fact, until such
attention is directed to the nature of male and female offenders’ opportunity sets, it is not possible to determine
whether or not an analysis of male and female violent offending and lone wolf terrorism can be constructed on
the basis of the application of a model of choice to distinct opportunity sets or even whether the opportunity sets
are distinct. The aim of such an inquiry would be to develop a more sophisticated ‘opportunities-based’ response
to the gender gap.
A consideration of the feminist criminology and feminist economics literature and the problem presented to
economic analysis by the gender gap in violent offending brings to the defence economist’s attention both the
necessity to be more careful in developing and defining categories of terrorist decision-makers which may not
be as universal as they might be thought to be and, secondly, the importance of identifying male or female-
centricities in the opportunity sets that the terrorist decision-maker is supposed to confront and make a selection
from. In the context of lone wolf terrorism, the male-centricities in the opportunity set are a matter for further
research as too are the uniquely gendered lived experiences of female lone wolf terrorists that may not only
shape the opportunity set that they face or that they perceive that they face but also the selections that they might
make from it. Although male dominated, female perpetrated lone wolf terrorism is a real phenomenon and one
that it is essential for economists to understand and account for within models of terrorist choice if a reasonably
complete economic analysis of terrorism is to be developed. This is important because economic analysis seeks
to guide policy and shape the ways in which law enforcement pre-empts or pursues lone wolf offenders. An
approach to this task that provides qualified conclusions with regard to female offenders is not a finished
In attempting to address some of these sorts of issues, the distinction between agentic and non-agentic models
must be clear. As mentioned during the course of the discussion, some models of female participation in
illegitimate activity attribute that participation to factors that lay outside of self-knowing direction. In a sense,
the offender has little or no choice because of some inherent determinism. This does not accord well with
economic analysis, which explores an individual’s choices from a set of opportunities, and has attracted
criticism within the criminology literature. Even though feminist economists argue for a revision or replacement
of the orthodox rational choice model they do not advocate a non-agentic alternative. A model that explains an
individual’s choice on the basis of some factor other than the offender’s self-knowing direction is not a model of
choice that fits within any of the categories of orthodox or heterodox economic analysis. Both strands of
analysis would depict the female lone wolf terrorist as making a choice to engage in terrorism. The precise
approach that is taken to the analysis of that choice is then a matter for consideration and debate that may invoke
some or all of the themes explored in this paper. Constrained opportunities, for example, may appear to ‘force’ a
particular choice but they do not replace self-knowing direction as the impetus for the chosen action.
There are several directions that economic analysis might take. The first is to move beyond the simplistic
responses to analytical problems such as the one presented by the gender gap in violent offending and lone wolf
terrorism. If differences in opportunities explain the gender gap, then economists should attempt to determine
what those differences are. If two different opportunity sets emerge, preference rankings across those
opportunity sets may be developed for female and male offenders. This would involve an application of
expected utility theory or one of its competing theoretical models of choice, such as prospect theory (see
Kahneman and Tversky 1979). The second direction that might be taken is one that is based more on theoretical
development of the available models of choice, including the behavioural alternatives to expected utility theory.
However, if this is to involve more than simply augmenting the equations by a ‘gender effect’ variable, such
theoretical development must be preceded by further empirical or experimental investigation of the choices
made by male and female offenders when confronted with the same opportunities. Needless to say, this second
direction is not completely separate from the first. The complexities involved present a number of empirical and
theoretical challenges and, if resolved, still leave open the question regarding the applicability of orthodox
models of choice to the decision to participate in illegitimate behaviour.
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