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Causes and Effects of World War I

We investigate long-run effects of World War II on socio-economic status and health of older individuals in Europe. We construct several measures of war exposure—experience of dispossession, persecution, combat in local areas, and hunger periods. Exposure to war and more importantly to individual-level shocks caused by the war significantly predicts economic and health outcomes at older ages. Large amounts of physical capital were destroyed through six years of ground battles and bombing.

Many individuals were forced to abandon or give up their property without compensation and to move on to new lands. Periods of hunger became more common even in relatively prosperous Western Europe. Families were separated for long periods of time, and many children lost their fathers. Many, including young children, would personally witness the horrors of war as battles and bombing took place in the very areas where they lived. Horrendous crimes against humanity were committed.

Due to WWII, political and economic systems in many countries would be permanently altered. In this paper, we investigate long-run effects of World War II on late-life economic and health outcomes in Western continental Europe health, education, labor market outcomes and marriage.

We explore several channels through which this war might have influenced individual lives, and document which groups of the population were most affected. SHARE covers representative samples of the population aged 50 and over in 13 European countries, with about 20, observations.

We also collected external data on casualties, timing and location of combat action, yearly GDP by country, population movements, and male-female population ratios. To our individual-level analysis of the multidimensional effects of a major shock that affected life circumstances, we add new dimensions to a rapidly increasing literature that aims at explaining the causes of health and wealth gradients in labor and health economics see Deaton, ; Smith, a ; Heckman, SHARE not only measures major contemporaneous economic and health outcomes of adults over age 50 in these European countries, but includes retrospective modules meant to capture salient parts of early life experiences, including those related to the war.

There simply are no micro economic panel data in either the United States or in Europe that have prospectively tracked people for that long a time period. Since the end of WWII, western continental Europe has had a rich and sometime tumultuous economic and political history, the effects of which on its residents are not well documented.

There is legitimate concern about the quality of recall data, particularly for time periods decades in the past. But that concern has been lessened by a realization that recall of events during childhood is better than for other periods of life, particularly if events are salient as they certainly are in this application. Smith b investigated several quality markers and showed that his childhood health instrument was successful in matching known secular trends in childhood illnesses decades in the past.

One aim of the paper is to illustrate how such retrospective life data can further our understanding of effects of early-life conditions as affected by large external shocks, such as a war. Largely due to data reasons beyond their control, the studies of which we are aware could not use individual-level measures of whether a particular person was affected by the war and through which channel.

Retrospective life data, such as those from SHARE, contain detailed information and provide the opportunity of studying that issue. Another possibility is using different measures of war exposure such as the closeness of combat. We construct such measures from external data sources. In addition, SHARE data contain retrospective questions on several possible channels of war exposure: hunger, the absence of the father, dispossession, and persecution.

Given the scale of the war and number of ways it fundamentally changed the world, the existing economic literature using WWII as a natural experiment is surprisingly thin. Still, it does suggest that excellent research opportunities remain, especially given the wide diversity of European experiences in WWII. This paper is divided into six sections. The next highlights the main attributes of SHARE data and the additional data we collected for this research.

The fourth section summarizes statistical models that capture impacts of the experience of WWII on individual adult labor market, demographic, and health outcomes. We also present our models of the influence of the war on some of the primary pathways through which it had long lasting impacts—hunger, dispossession, the absence of a father, and marriage.

The final section highlights our main conclusions. SHARE is a multidisciplinary cross-national panel interview survey on health, socioeconomic status, and social and family networks of individuals aged 50 or over in continental Europe.

In addition to a standard set of demographic attributes age, marital status, education , SHARE data include health variables self-reported health, health conditions, health behaviors , psychological variables e. This information is used to aid in dating of all other events. The information in the life history includes family composition and type of home number of rooms, running water, toilet, etc , number of books, and occupation of father.

These measures were used to create an index of childhood SES at age A childhood health history is also included based on the Smith module included in the PSID and HRS that queries about individual specific childhood diseases and an overall subjective evaluation of childhood health status Smith, b.

In addition, respondents are asked about childhood immunizations and hunger during childhood. Adult health histories and job and income histories were also collected. In addition to SHARE data, we also use external data sources to identify aggregate channels of war-affectedness. Since WWII affected not only countries differentially, but also regions within countries, we constructed data on combat operations using sources from military history Ellis, Using maps of within-country regions for each month during the war, we documented whether armies engaged in battle in that place at that time.

We combined these data with information about the region in which respondents lived during each year of WWII and use it as one measure of individual war exposure. Since we analyze data over a time period of 50 years, we also have to account for country-specific economic performance that may have affected childhood circumstances differently.

We also used external data on country-specific civilian and military causalities associated with WWII, population movements, and the sex ratio. Appendix Table A provides a parallel list of variables constructed from external data sources with a documentation of the source that was used. The channels include future per capita income growth of countries affected, mortality, changing sex ratios, absence of a father, periods of hunger, migration, dispossession, and persecution. This section is used to motivate the rationale for analyses pursued in section IV.

If wars alter long-term economic growth, they would permanently depress economic prospects of future generations. Warfare reduces capital stock through the destruction of infrastructure, productive capacity, and housing through bombing and fighting, and results in a relocation of food and other production into military production. It obviously destroys human capital—but the real question for our analysis is will there be catch-up growth, or will the destruction show up many decades later?

Based on Harrison , table 2 displays GPD per capita of some of the major countries involved in the war relative to that of the US at key illustrative dates. The immediate impact of WWII was apparently quite destructive for the countries involved, especially so for those on the losing side—Germany, Japan, and Italy—presumably reflecting their much larger losses in both physical and human capital during the war. What appears to be essential in the long-term was not whether a country was on the winning or losing side, but whether or not they transited to democracy and open-market economies.

Source : Harrison , Table 1 — In , there were about 2 billion people in the world. While earlier wars also resulted in deaths of civilians, 5 civilians were particularly heavily affected by WWII with about half of the WWII European casualties being civilians. Among civilian deaths, between 9. Deaths due to the war were very unequally distributed across countries, whether they were military deaths due to combat, civilian deaths, or the holocaust.

Figure 1. A displays the fraction of the population who died in a large array of affected countries. Among European countries covered by our data, Germany and Poland bore the brunt of these casualties. In contrast and for comparative purposes only, American causalities in the European and Asian theatres combined were a bit over ,, the overwhelming majority of whom were soldiers.

B displays total number of deaths by type in the same countries. Deaths were highly concentrated in Germany and Poland where deaths measured around 5 million in both countries.

In Germany, there were almost as many civilian deaths as military ones, while in Poland civilian deaths including the holocaust are by far the dominant ones. In many of the remaining countries in our data, deaths due to WWII are measured instead in the hundreds of thousands, but still often amount to a large fraction of the pre-war populations in several other countries, particularly Austria and the Netherlands.

The other European countries that stand out are those that would comprise most of the Soviet Union, where one in seven perished in the war with about 10 million military deaths and 13 million civilian deaths.

Since the male bias in deaths was concentrated among soldiers as civilian and holocaust fatalities were largely gender neutral, it is countries in figure 1 who experienced many military deaths that were most affected. With 3 million military deaths, the most affected country in our data was Germany.

The top left-hand side of table 3 shows one immediate demographic consequence of the war by listing by country and period when one was age 10 the fraction of individuals who had a biological father absent when they were 10 years old. Once again, the largest effects took place in the war-ravaged countries of Austria, Germany, and Poland. In Austria and Germany, about one in four children lived without their biological fathers when they were age 10 during the war. The legacy persists into years after the war since many who were age 10 during — had fathers who died during the war.

In Germany, almost a third of those age 10 in these years were not living with their biological father. Absent father rates fall sharply in the post years since these children were born after the war.

We observe war spikes in other countries as well Italy, France, Denmark, and Belgium , but the contrasts with the pre- and post-war years are not as dramatic.

One-year refers to year age For sex ratios, see Appendix table A. Sex ratios before, during, and after the war are contained in the bottom-right half of table 3. In Germany, the sex ratio dropped from 0. Thus, many women did not marry, and many children grew up without a father.

Even after the war, about 4 of the 11 million German prisoners of war remained in captivity, and the last 35, German soldiers returned from the Soviet Union in which further compounded the problem of absent fathers Wehler, World War II caused several severe hunger crises which led to many casualties, and may have had long-term effects on the health of survivors.

For example, since the beginning of the German occupation in Poland, the nutritional situation of the non-German population was poor. The average caloric intake for the Polish population was about calories in The situation was worst in the Warsaw Ghetto where average food rations were limited to about calories per day in The famine was mainly caused by three factors: 1 occupiers imposed a naval blockade; 2 prices to farmers were fixed at such low levels that they were not willing to market their products; 3 mobility between different regions of the country was reduced due to occupation.

The nutritional situation returned to acceptable levels towards the end of Neelson and Stratman use Cohort Data to show that undernourishment of children who were 1 or 2 years old at the time of the famine had a significantly lower probability of being literate or to complete upper secondary education. About 20, deaths, mainly among elderly men, are attributed to this famine. The famine ended with the end of the German occupation in May The Dutch famine has been extensively studied because it affected an otherwise well-nourished population at a very specific time and region.

Individuals exposed to this famine in utero are shown to suffer from cognitive and mental problems and addiction Neugebauer et al. Germany suffered from hunger between and when the food supply from occupied countries ceased. In the US occupation zone, the Office of Military Government for Germany established a goal of calories per day in , but in the first months of occupation, this goal often could not be met.

Cause and Effect: The Outbreak of World War II

Historians from many countries have given considerable attention to studying and understanding the causes of World War II , a global war from to that was the deadliest conflict in human history. The immediate precipitating event was the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on September 1, , and the subsequent declarations of war on Germany made by Britain and France , but many other prior events have been suggested as ultimate causes. Primary themes in historical analysis of the war's origins include the political takeover of Germany in by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party ; Japanese militarism against China , which led to the Second Sino-Japanese War ; Italian aggression against Ethiopia , which led to the Second Italo-Ethiopian War ; and Germany's initial success in negotiating a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union to divide territorial control of Eastern Europe between them. During the interwar period , deep anger arose in the Weimar Republic regarding the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles , which punished Germany for its role in World War I with severe conditions and heavy financial reparations in order to prevent it from ever becoming a military power again. This provoked strong currents of revanchism in German politics, with complaints primarily focused on the demilitarization of the Rhineland , the prohibition of German unification with Austria, and the loss of some German-speaking territories and overseas colonies. The s were a decade in which democracy was in disrepute; countries across the world turned to authoritarian regimes during the worldwide economic crisis of the Great Depression. The most extreme political aspirant to emerge from this situation was Adolf Hitler , leader of the Nazi Party.

The Effects of World War II on Economic and Health Outcomes across Europe

The effects of war are widely spread and can be long term or short term. In the past decade, up to two million of those killed in armed conflicts were children. This is due to the increasing trend where combatants have made targeting civilians a strategic objective.

There are many causes of the war and some of them go back to the end of the First World War.

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2 Response
  1. Granville G.

    Pinpointing the causes of a vast, global event like the Second World War is a challenging task for the historian.

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