After also examining the income and education of Palestinian suicide bombers and Israelis implicated in civilian assassinations and attacks, the study concludes: "Any connection between poverty, education and terrorism is indirect and probably quite weak".
The report, Education, Poverty, Political Violence and Terrorism, Is there a Causal Connection? is from the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an independent body highly respected for its quantitative work in economic and social policy.
Alan Kreuger of Princeton University and Jitka Maleckova of Charles University in Prague, examined the jobs, educational level and family circumstances of 129 Hizbullah militants killed in operations against Israel in the past 20 years.
As the graphic shows, compared with the Lebanese population as a whole, Hizbullah members were less likely to come from poor families and were significantly more likely to have completed secondary education.
A similar pattern holds for Palestinian suicide bombers. Though the data are less extensive, the authors found a positive link between taking part in "terrorism" and educational attainment.
Israeli citizens engaged in bombing and assassination attempts in the occupied territories in recent years have also tended to be drawn from better-off backgrounds, and have often been highly educated.
The study also looked at the timing of past upsurges in violence in the Middle East and sought to relate them to cycles of economic growth.
No correlation was found between participation in violence and economic depression: violence seems to have increased when local economic conditions were getting better.
The latest intifada began when economic optimism among Palestinians was rising and after a period during which education levels among young Palestinians had risen remarkably.
Thus the latest outbreak of violence, the paper says, cannot be blamed on deteriorating economic conditions.
Drawing on opinion polls conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, the authors point out that the support for violent action against Israel, including suicide bombing, does not vary much according to social background. Well-educated and affluent Palestinians are as likely to back attacks as the unemployed and poor.
"If poverty were the wellspring of support for terrorism or politically motivated violence, one would have expected the unemployed to be more supportive of armed attacks than merchants and professionals, not less," the study says.
It goes on to say that drawing a connection between poverty and terrorism could inhibit assistance to poor countries.
The international aid community, by associating violence and poverty, "may lose interest in providing support to developing nations when the imminent threat of terrorism recedes", it concludes.