The Declining Risk of Death in Battle

Conference paper

Lacina, Bethany Ann; Bruce M. Russett & Nils Petter Gleditsch (2005) The Declining Risk of Death in Battle, presented at the 46th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, 1-5 March.


A recent article using the new Correlates of War (COW) data on the distribution of interstate, intrastate, and extrastate wars from 1816 to 1997 claims evidence of a relatively constant risk of death in battle during that time. We suggest the authors’ information is skewed by irregularities in the COW deaths data, and contest their pessimistic interpretation. Using revised information on battle deaths from 1900 to 2002 we show that the risk of death in battle by no means follows a flat line, but rather declined significantly after World War II and again after the end of the Cold War. We suggest possible causes of this pattern.

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