The association of state per capita income and military service deaths in the Vietnam and Iraq wars

Popul Health Metr. 2009 Jan 6:7:1. doi: 10.1186/1478-7954-7-1.


Background: In the United States, social burdens including war casualties are often distributed unequally across groups of individuals, communities, and states. The purpose of this report was to examine the association between war deaths and per capita income in the 50 states and District of Columbia during the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

Methods: The numbers of deaths by the home state of record for each conflict were obtained from Department of Defense records on the Internet as were key variables including age at death, gender, race, branch of service, rank, circumstances of death, home state of record and the ratio of wounded to dead. In addition, we obtained state per capita income and state population for the relevant times.

Results: Characteristics of decedents in the 2 conflicts were very similar with young, white enlisted men accounting for the majority of deaths. However, in the Iraq war, women accounted for a 2.4% of casualties. Also of note was the higher ratio of wounded to dead in Iraq. At the level of the state, the correlation between the ratio of deaths per 100,000 and per capita income was -0.51 (p < 0.0001) for Vietnam and -0.52 for Iraq (p < 0.0001). In both eras, states with lower per capita income tended to have higher ratios of deaths per population.

Conclusion: For military service members serving in the Vietnam and Iraq conflicts, there were many more women who died in the latter war. Whether war deaths resulted in lower per capita income cannot be determined from these cross sectional data; we simply note a strong association between per capita income and war casualty rates for both wars.