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Combat, Casualties, and Compensation: Evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan


  • Armey, Laura

    () (Naval Postgraduate School)

  • Kniesner, Thomas J.

    () (Claremont Graduate University)

  • Leeth, John D.

    () (Bentley University)

  • Sullivan, Ryan

    () (Naval Postgraduate School)


Our research examines the effect of combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan on casualties. We use restricted data from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) and Social Security Administration (SSA) to construct a panel of all U.S. Active Duty service members having served at some point during the years 2001-2012. Casualties disproportionately occur at higher rates among (i) young, white, males (ii) enlisted personnel (iii) less educated personnel (iv) and those in combat job types. Our estimates indicate that overall U.S. military personnel who deployed in an individual year to Iraq or Afghanistan had a 48 per 100,000 higher probability of death than non-deployed military personnel who remained stateside. The increased fatal injury risk of deployed U.S. military personnel is 15 times higher than the national average civilian workplace fatality rate, but roughly equal to the fatal injury risk faced in some of the most dangerous civilian occupations. Our estimates suggest a compensating wage differential equal to $808 per month would be appropriate, in comparison to the current status quo of $225 per month in danger pay (and additional tax benefits) provided to U.S. military personnel deployed into combat zones. The additional compensation should also be adjusted by service or job type.

Suggested Citation

  • Armey, Laura & Kniesner, Thomas J. & Leeth, John D. & Sullivan, Ryan, 2018. "Combat, Casualties, and Compensation: Evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan," IZA Discussion Papers 11785, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11785

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    More about this item


    military; deployment; VSL; casualties; danger pay;

    JEL classification:

    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • J17 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Value of Life; Foregone Income
    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials


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