Date of Thesis

Spring 2022


The Iraq War (2003–2011) constitutes by some estimates one of the deadliest and most destructive conflicts of the 21st century (Hagopian et al., 2013). In addition to the disputed figures of excess violent civilian casualties––generally ranging from 180,000 to 210,000 deaths––the war has created one of the major refugee crises of modern times, with 1 in 25 Iraqis estimated to have been displaced from their homes by the 2003 invasion (Costs of War, 2021). While much of this violence has been wrought by American and Iraqi coalition troops, violence against civilians has also been perpetuated by insurgent groups and paramilitary units like the Mahdi Army, and terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda (FSI/CISAC, 2017; Avram, 2013). This violence was potentially coterminous with a mounting degree of inequality in the country, occasioned by the radical economic reform undertaken by the occupation and the destruction of infrastructure. This study examines the potential relationship between inequality and violence against civilians in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. I hypothesized that increased inequality (possibly as a consequence of neoliberal policy-making by the Coalition Provisional Authority) resulted in greater violence owing to insurgents’ sense of relative deprivation, which counsels comparison between one’s own class or income position and those of a comparator group.

No commensurable and broadly available measure of GDP in Iraq during the wartime period (2003–2014) exists, either derived from Iraqi government or international reporting. As a consequence of this deficit, the study attempts to proxy inequality in the country during this period on grounds of luxury demand, income sources and sectoral breakdown of GDP. It finds some correlation between chosen measures of luxury demand and anti-occupation violence against civilian persons for the duration of the war, as well as for some time after (2003–2014). Additional evidence is supplied by an increase in non-labour income when compared to labour income in total GDP for the same period. A 20% increase in services over the same period is observed, further strengthening the conclusions outlined in the hypothesis. Justifications for these conclusions, in addition to any implications drawable from them, are outlined in a separate portion of the study. Finally, methodological challenges are outlined and areas for further research are discussed.


Violence, Inequality, Iraq, War, Terrorism, Leveling

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



Second Major


Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration

Arabic Studies

First Advisor

Jan Knoedler

Second Advisor

Matías Vernengo