Demographic and Economic Consequences of Conflict


  • Author’s note: We would like to thank our two anonymous reviewers for their insights and helpful comments. The paper would not be where it is without them.


Kugler, Tadeusz et al. (2012) Demographic and Economic Consequences of Conflict. International Studies Quarterly, doi: 10.1111/isqu.12002
© 2012 International Studies Association

Research on conflict traditionally focuses on its initiation, duration, and severity, but seldom on its consequences. Yet, demographic and economic recovery from the consequences of war lasts far longer and may be more devastating than the waging war. Our concern is with war losses and post-war recovery leading to convergence with pre-war performance. To test this proposition, we choose the most severe international and civil wars after 1920. We find that all belligerents recover or overtake demographic losses incurred in war. Economic assessments differ. The most-developed belligerents recover like a “phoenix” from immense destruction in one generation. For less-developed societies, the outcomes are mixed. The less-developed belligerents recover only a portion of their pre-war performance. The least-developed societies suffer the most and fall into lasting poverty traps. The overlapping generation growth model accounts for such differences in recovery rates based on pre-war performance challenging arguments from Solow’s neoclassical growth perspective. Our results imply that foreign aid is incidental to the post-war convergence for the most-developed societies, can prompt recovery for the less-developed societies, and is not effective—unless it is massive and sustained—for the least-developed societies. World War II may provide a poor guide to current post-war challenges in Iraq and in Afghanistan.