Saving lives in armed conflicts: What factors matter?

Pavel A. Yakolev


Despite the trend toward fewer armed conflicts and war deaths, dramatic variations in conflict casualties exist across countries. This article examines what factors affect casualties in civil as well as interstate wars and finds that conflict casualties are directly influenced by geography and military expenditure per soldier. The latter proxies for military capital intensity and is of concern to policymakers because it affects the level of conflict casualties. Specifically, the article finds that military expenditure per soldier lowers conflict casualties and is significantly influenced by conscription, education, per capita GDP, geography, and political and economic freedoms.

Full Text:



Altman, S.H. and A.E. Fechter. 1967. “The Supply of Military Personnel in the Absence of a Draft.” American Economic Review. Papers and Proceedings. Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 19-31.

Barro, R.J. and J.-W. Lee. 2000. “International Data on Educational Attainment: Updates and Implications.” CID Working Paper No. 42, April 2000.

Biddle, S. and S. Long. 2004. “Democracy and Military Effectiveness: A Deeper Look.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 48, pp. 525-546.

Bueno de Mesquita, B., J.D. Morrow, R.M. Siverson, and A. Smith. 2004. “Testing Novel Implications from the Selectorate Theory of War.” World Politics, Vol. 56, No. 3, pp. 363-388.

Chiozza, G. and H.E. Goemans. 2003. “Peace through Insecurity — Tenure and International Conflict.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 443-467.

Chiozza, G. and H.E. Goemans. 2004. “International Conflict and the Tenure of Leaders: Is War Still Ex Post Inefficient?” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 604-619.

Choi, S.-W. and P. James. 2003. “No Professional Soldiers, No Militarized Interstate Disputes? A New Question for Neo-Kantianism.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 47, pp. 796-816.

Feaver, P. and C. Gelpi. 2004. Choosing Your Battles: American Civil Military Relations and the Use of Force. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Filson, D. and S. Werner. 2004. “Bargaining and Fighting: The Impact of Regime Type on War Onset, Duration, and Outcomes.” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 48, pp. 296-313.

Fisher, A.C. 1969. “The Cost of the Draft and the Cost of Ending the Draft.” American Economic Review, Vol. 59, No. 3, pp. 239-254.

Garfinkel, M.R. 1994. “Domestic Politics and International Conflict.” American Economic Review, Vol. 84, pp. 1294-1309.

Gleditsch, N.P., P. Wallensteen, M. Eriksson, M. Sollenberg, and H. Strand. 2002. “Armed Conflict 1946-2001: A New Dataset.” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 39, pp. 615-637.

Goldsmith, B.E. 2003. “Bearing the Defense Burden, 1886-1989: Why Spend More?” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 47, pp. 551-573.

Gwartney, J. and R. Lawson. 2004. Economic Freedom of the World: 2004 Annual Report. Vancouver: The Fraser Institute. Data retrieved from

Hansen, W.L. and B.A. Weisbrod. 1967. “Economics of the Military Draft.” Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 81, No. 3, pp. 395-421.

Harbom, L. and P. Wallensteen. 2005. “Armed Conflict and Its International Dimensions, 1946-2004.” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, pp. 623-635.

Harbom, L., S. Högbladh, and P. Wallensteen. 2006. “Armed Conflict and Peace Agreements.” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 43, No. 5, pp. 617-631.

Hess, G.D. and A. Orphanides. 1995. “War Politics: An Economic Rational Voter Framework.” American Economic Review, Vol. 85, No. 4, pp. 828-846.

Hess, G.D. and A. Orphanides. 2001. “Economic Conditions, Elections, and the Magnitude of Foreign Conflicts.” Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 80, pp. 121-140.

Horowitz, M., E. Simpson, and A. Stam. 2006. “Domestic Institutions and Wartime Casualties.” Unpublished Draft Working Paper. Harvard University. February 2007.

Lee, D.R., and R.B. McKenzie. 1992. “Reexamination of the Relative Efficiency of the Draft and the All-Volunteer Army.” Southern Economic Journal, Vol. 58, No. 3, pp. 644-654.

Miles, D. 2006. “Innovative Programs Help Army Maintain Recruiting Comeback.” American Forces Press Service, 10 January 2006.

Mueller, J.E. 1973. War, Presidents, and Public Opinion. New York: Wiley.

Mueller, J.E. 2005. “The Iraq Syndrome.” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 86, No. 4, pp. 44-54.

Mulligan, C.B., R. Gil, and X. Sala-i-Martin. 2002. “Social Security and Democracy.” NBER Working Paper No. W8958.

Mulligan, C.B., R. Gil, and X. Sala-i-Martin. 2004. “Do Democracies Have Different Public Policies than Nondemocracies?” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 18, pp. 51-74.

Mulligan, C.B. and K.K. Tsui. 2006. “Political Competitiveness.” NBER Working Papers 12653. Boston, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Nafziger, E.W. and J. Auvinen. 2002. “Economic Development, Inequality, War and State Violence.” World Development, Vol. 30, pp. 153-163.

North, D. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Persson, T. 2002. “Do Political Institutions Shape Economic Policy?” Econometrica, Vol. 70, pp. 883-905.

Polity IV Project. 2000. Political Regime Characteristics and Transition, 1800-2000. Electronic Data. (version p4v2000). College Park, MD: CIDCM, University of Maryland.

Poutvaara, P. and A. Wagener. 2007. “Conscription: Economic Costs and Political Allure.” Economics of Peace and Security Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 6-15.

Reiter, D. and A.C. Stam. 2002. Democracies at War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rohlfs, C. 2005. “How Much Did the U.S. Government Value Its Troops’ Lives in World War II? Evidence from Dollar-Fatality Tradeoffs in Land Battles.” Unpublished Manuscript.

Rohlfs, C. 2006. “The Government’s Valuation of Military Life-Saving in War: A Cost Minimization Approach.” American Economic Review. Papers and Proceedings. Vol. 96, No, 2, pp. 39-44.

Singer, J.D., S. Bremer, and J. Stuckey. 1972. “Capability Distribution, Uncertainty, and Major Power War, 1820-1965,” pp. 19-48 in B. Russett, ed. Peace, War, and Numbers. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Siverson, R.M. 1995. “Democracies and War Participation: In Defense of Institutional Constraints.” European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 481-489.

Vasquez, J.P., III. 2005. “Shouldering the Soldiering: Democracy, Conscription, and Military Casualties.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 49, pp. 849-873.

Viscusi, W.K. and J.E. Aldy. 2003. “The Value of a Statistical Life: A Critical Review of Market Estimates Throughout the World.” Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 5-76.

Warner, J.T. and B.J. Asch. 1995. “The Economics of Military Manpower,” in K. Hartley and T. Sandler, eds. Handbook of Defense Economics. Vol. 1. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Yakovlev, P. 2006. “Three Essays on Political Regimes, Military Spending, and Economic Growth.” Ph.D. dissertation. West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.

Yakovlev, P. 2007. “Arms Trade, Military Spending, and Economic Growth.” Defense and Peace Economics, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 317-338.

Yakovlev, P. 2008. “Do Democracies and Dictatorships Value Life Differently in Military Conflicts?” Unpublished Draft Working Paper/ Duquesne University. January 2008.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.