Unequal Sacrifice: Income Inequality and Willingness to Fight Wars
38 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 12 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2010
Does economic inequality diminish the capacity of democracies to extract voluntary sacrifice? And does inequality undermine citizen’s willingness to do their civic duty when the state is under threat? We address these questions by linking income inequality with people’s willingness to fight for their country with the help of individual-level data from the World Values Survey alongside country-level data from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) and the Militarized Interstate Dispute (MID) dataset for 16 OECD countries. We find that people are less willing to fight in more unequal countries. More importantly, the impact of income inequality on the willingness to fight is asymmetrical: while lower income individuals’ willingness to fight is insensitive to the distribution of income in society, richer individuals are less willing to fight as the distribution of incomes becomes more unequal. Moreover, these effects exist only for citizens likely to face the risk of conscription in times of war – i.e., men.
Keywords: income, income inequality, political consent, war, fighting
JEL Classification: P16, D63, D71, D74, H4, H53, H56
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