Unifying casualty distributions within and across conflicts

Michael Spagat, Stijn Van Weezel, D. Dylan Johnson Restrepo, Minzhang Zheng, Neil F. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The distribution of whole war sizes and the distribution of event sizes within individual wars, can both be well approximated by power laws where size is measured by the number of fatalities. However the power-law exponent value for whole wars has a substantially smaller magnitude – and hence a flatter distribution – than for individual wars. We provide detailed numerical evidence that confirms that these numerically different power-law exponent values are interrelated in a simple way by the effect of aggregating fatalities from individual events within wars to whole wars. We offer intuition for this finding and hence strengthen the case for a unified description and understanding of human conflict across scales.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere04808
Number of pages4
Issue number8
Early online date27 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

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