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The Unequal Burden of War: The Effect of Armed Conflict on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy

  • Thomas Plümper (a1) and Eric Neumayer (a2)


Most combatants in armed conflict are men, so naturally men are the major direct victims of military operations. Yet armed conflicts have important indirect negative consequences on agriculture, infrastructure, public health provision, and social order. These indirect consequences are often overlooked and underappreciated. They also affect women—arguably more so than men. This article provides the first rigorous analysis of the impact of armed conflict on female life expectancy relative to male. We find that over the entire conflict period, interstate and civil wars on average affect women more adversely than men. In peacetime, women typically live longer than men. Hence, armed conflict tends to decrease the gap between female and male life expectancy. For civil wars, we also find that ethnic wars and wars in “failed” states are much more damaging to women than other civil wars. Our findings challenge policymakers as well as international and humanitarian organizations to develop policies that tackle the large indirect and long-term negative health impacts of armed conflicts.Equal authorship. We are grateful for helpful suggestions by Andrew Mack, Håvard Hegre, David Hugh-Jones, Lisa Martin, and the anonymous referees. Eric Neumayer acknowledges financial assistance from the Leverhulme Trust and Thomas Plümper financial assistance by the European Commission-DG Research Sixth Framework Program (CIT-2-CT-2004-506084). Data and do-files to generate the results are available on request.



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