Socio-Economic Inequality and War: Who Dies in American Wars? The Evolution of Tactics and Technology and the Casualty-Gap

Partner: Center for Security Studies, Metropolitan University Prague
Event date: Dec 01, 2015
Deadline for registering: Dec 01, 2015
Venue: Room no. 205, MUP Strašnice building, Dubečská 900/10, Prague 10, Czech Republic
Category: Lecture

Lecture outline: Are poor people filling the ranks of US armed forces? Do they disproportionately bear the human cost of American military operations abroad? These questions have important substantive policy and theoretical implications, which are related, among others, to policy-makers’ incentives to rely on force as well as to civil-military relations. According to a wide consensus among policy-makers, the public and international relations scholars, the poor are both more likely to enlist in US armed forces and to bear the burden of US security. In this article, we argue that there are two main problems with the existing research. First, its causal mechanism is based on unwarranted assumptions. Second, the empirical evidence supporting this argument relies on aggregate data (e.g., average income and education by zip-code) that do not permit to reach definitive conclusions about enlisted personnel’s socio-economic background. We address these problems by drawing on recent works on the evolution of modern warfare and technology in order to develop a demand-side theory of military personnel that we test on individual-level data gathered from the Department of Defense and the NLSY97 survey. Our empirical analysis questions the existing consensus and shows that, coherently with our theory, those who join the armed forces are not statistically different from the median household with regard to education, cognitive abilities, parental income and other socio-economic indicators. Our work thus provides theoretical and empirical reasons to question the casualty gap hypothesis.

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Keywords: Human Rights, Education, Democracy, USA, Global Security


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