The Mortality Cost Metric for the Costs of War

31 Pages Posted: 16 May 2019

See all articles by W. Kip Viscusi

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

Date Written: March 21, 2019

Abstract

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

Viscusi, W. Kip, The Mortality Cost Metric for the Costs of War (March 21, 2019). Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 19-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3379726 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3379726

W. Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

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