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Employment Status and Support for Wartime Violence: Evidence from the Iraq War


  • Andrew C. Shaver

    (Princeton University)


The unemployed are often inculpated in the production of violence during conflict. A simple yet common argument describes these individuals as disaffected and inclined to perpetrate affectively motivated violence. A second holds that they are drawn to violent political organizations for lack of better outside options. Yet, evidence in support of a general positive relationship between unemployment and violence during conflict is not established. Drawing from a large body of psychological research, I argue that a basic but important relationship has been overlooked: Loss of employment, rather than rendering individuals angry, increases feelings of depression, anxiety, helplessness, and belief in the power of others. Members of this segment of society are more likely than most to reject the use of violence. Drawing on previously unreleased data from a major, multi-million dollar survey effort carried out during the Iraq war, I uncover evidence that psychological findings carry to conflict settings: unemployed Iraqis were consistently less optimistic than other citizens; displayed diminished perceptions of efficacy; and were much less likely to support the use of violence against Coalition forces.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew C. Shaver, 2016. "Employment Status and Support for Wartime Violence: Evidence from the Iraq War," Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC) Working Papers 1, Empirical Studies of Conflict Project.
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:esocpu:1

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    Iraq; Violence; Economic Development; Demographic; Socioeconomic;

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • F51 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Conflicts; Negotiations; Sanctions

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