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Burden Sharing: Income, Inequality and Willingness to Fight

  • Christopher J. Anderson, Anna Getmansky and Sivan Hirsch-Hoefler

What explains citizens’ willingness to fight for their country in times of war? Using six waves of the World Values Survey, this study finds that individual willingness to fight is negatively related with country-level income inequality. When income inequality is high, the rich are less willing to fight than the poor. When inequality is low, the poor and rich differ little in their willingness to fight. This change in the willingness to fight between low and high inequality countries is greater among the rich than among the poor. This article explores several explanations for these findings. The data are consistent with the argument that high inequality makes it more attractive for the rich to buy themselves out of military service.

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Departments of Economics and Politics & International Studies (PAIS), University of Warwick (email:; Department of Government, University of Essex (email:; Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya (email: The three authors contributed equally, and are listed alphabetically. We thank Patrick Kuhn, Johannes Lindvall, Yotam Margalit and Tolga Sinmazdemir for comments on earlier drafts, and the BJPS editors and anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. We also thank participants of the Midwest Political Science Association (2010 ), the American Political Science Association (2011), and the Empirical Studies in Political Analysis (2016) annual meetings, who commented on this article. All remaining errors are ours. The dataset and the commands required to replicate the empirical results are available in Harvard Dataverse at: and online appendices are available at .

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