Wealth in the Trenches. Social Class and Survival during the Great War

Lionel Kesztenbaum, INED

We study a very unequal society faced with war on a massive scale, fought by a military organization relying on quantity more than quality and designed to be egalitarian. Within that framework, we aim at measuring the role of wealth and social status on mortality during the war by taking advantage of individual conscription data that allow us to follow the trajectories of soldiers who fought during the war. We show that socioeconomic background do make a difference for surviving the war but with opposite effects for rural and urban conscripts: in rural settings coming from a privileged (wealthy) background is a clear disadvantage while it’s the opposite in urban areas, as those coming from educated groups having the lowest mortality during the war. We discuss allocation mechanisms of soldiers in the army that might explain those results and show that there are reinforced when taking into account wounds but mitigated when looking at post-war mortality of survivors.

Presented in Session 1237: History