The Casualty Gap: The Causes and Consequences of American Wartime Inequalities

Douglas Kriner, Francis Shen

Research output: Book/ReportBook

73 Scopus citations


Many have long suspected that when America takes up arms it is a rich man's war, but a poor man's fight. Despite these concerns about social inequality in military sacrifice, the hard data to validate such claims has been kept out of public view. The Casualty Gap renews the debate over unequal sacrifice by bringing to light new evidence on the inequality dimensions of American wartime casualties. It demonstrates unequivocally that since the conclusion of World War II, communities at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder have borne a disproportionate share of the human costs of war. Moreover, they show for the first time that when Americans are explicitly confronted with evidence of this inequality, they become markedly less supportive of the nation's war efforts. The Casualty Gap also uncovers how wartime deaths affect entire communities. Citizens who see the high price war exacts on friends and neighbors become more likely to oppose war and to vote against the political leaders waging it than residents of low-casualty communities. Moreover, extensive empirical evidence connects higher community casualty rates in Korea and Vietnam to lower levels of trust in government, interest in politics, and electoral and non-electoral participation. In this way, the casualty gap threatens the very vibrancy of American democracy by depressing civic engagement in high-casualty communities for years after the last gun falls silent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages320
ISBN (Electronic)9780199776788
ISBN (Print)9780195390964
StatePublished - May 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2010 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • American democracy
  • American wartime casualties
  • Civic engagement
  • Community casualty rates
  • Korea
  • Political leaders
  • Social inequality
  • Vietnam
  • Wartime deaths
  • World War II


Dive into the research topics of 'The Casualty Gap: The Causes and Consequences of American Wartime Inequalities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this