ESOC Working Paper 1: Employment Status and Support for Wartime Violence - Evidence from the Iraq War

Publication Year
ESOC Working Paper Series

The unemployed are often inculpated in violence production during state-state conflict. A common argument describes these individuals as disaffected and inclined to perpetrate affectively motivated violence. Another holds that they are drawn to violent political organizations for lack of outside opportunities. Yet, evidence supporting a general positive relationship between unemployment and wartime violence is not established. Following a large body of psychological research, I contend that loss of employment instead increases feelings of depression, anxiety and helplessness, with effects on perceptions of efficacy and the desire for retribution. Contrary to conventional wisdom, unemployed members of war-torn societies are more likely to reject the use of violence. Drawing from a major, heretofore unreleased Iraq War survey dataset, I find that unemployed Iraqis were consistently less optimistic than other citizens; displayed diminished perceptions of efficacy; and were much less likely to support the use of violence against Coalition forces.


Shaver, A. (2020). Employment Status and Support for Wartime Violence: Evidence from the Iraq War (ESOC Working Paper No. 1). Empirical Studies of Conflict Project. Retrieved [May 29,] 2020, from

Publication Topic
Economic Development
Publication Type
ESOC Working Paper