I am always a bit skeptical about articles that claim to have THE explanation to why people travel to Syria and Iraq (or elsewhere) to join and fight for the Islamic State. However, I found this article particularly interesting.
Here is the conclusion reached by the authors Efraim Benmelech and Esteban F. Klor:
“We find that poor economic conditions do not drive participation in ISIS. In contrast, the number of ISIS foreign fighters is positively correlated with a country’s GDP per capita and Human Development Index (HDI). In fact, many foreign fighters originate from countries with high levels of economic development, low income inequality, and highly developed political institutions. Other factors that explain the number of ISIS foreign fighters are the size of a country’s Muslim population and its ethnic homogeneity. Although we cannot directly determine why people join ISIS, our results suggest that the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS is driven not by economic or political conditions but rather by ideology and the difficulty of assimilation into homogeneous Western countries.”
The entire article can be read here