The Mortality Cost Metric for the Costs of War
31 Pages Posted: 16 May 2019
Date Written: March 21, 2019
Estimates of the costs of war include the financial costs and the lives that are lost. Using estimates of the value of a statistical life and the value of a statistical injury, the health losses can be converted to a common monetary metric and added to the budgetary costs. Counting the monetary value of the direct war-related fatalities and injuries plays a relatively greater role for the Vietnam War than for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. This article proposes an alternative war cost metric that also recognizes the lives that are also lost because economic resources are diverted to war efforts. All costs are converted to mortality costs using a measure of the mortality opportunity cost to the public of war-related expenditures. Recognition of these indirect mortality effects approximately triples the number of fatalities attributable to the post-9/11 wars. The relative role of these indirect mortality losses is less for the Vietnam War because of that war’s higher rate of fatalities compared to financial costs.
Keywords: war, mortality risk, value of a statistical life, opportunity cost
JEL Classification: D61, H56, J17
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation