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Propagating a permanent war economy? U.S. FDI in warring host countries

Li Dai (College of Business, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California, USA)
Yongsun Paik (College of Business, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Multinational Business Review

ISSN: 1525-383X

Article publication date: 10 January 2024

Issue publication date: 18 April 2024




Conventional wisdom suggests that war in the host country makes it unattractive for foreign firms to invest. To see if this is true for US firms on the aggregate, this paper aims to examine the veracity of a “permanent war economy” hypothesis, that foreign direct investment (FDI) may, in fact, increase in the host country not despite, but because of, war, i.e. one that lends credence to the idea that, in the USA, “defense [has] become one of constant preparation for future wars and foreign interventions rather than an exercise in response to one-off threats.”


The authors test the hypotheses using Generalized Method of Moments estimation, with Heckman Selection, on US FDI data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and war data from the Correlates of War2 Project, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program/International Peace Research Institute data set, the International Crisis Behavior Project and the Center for Systemic Peace Major Episodes of Political Violence data set. The final sample consists of 351 country-year observations in 55 host countries from 1982 to 2006.


The findings indicate that overall US FDI in a host country in a given year decreases if the host country is engaged in wars with multiple countries and if the US Government is involved in the war. Most notably, the results show that US involvement in multiple host country wars is actually correlated with increased US FDI into the host country, providing empirical support for the “permanent war economy” hypothesis.


While other studies have focused on war and FDI, the authors have sought to show the impact of the involvement of arguably the most influential country, i.e. the USA, in the sovereign matters of a focal host country. By studying FDI from the USA as a function of US involvement in wars overseas, over the years with the greatest use of private military companies by the USA and the largest portion of global FDI accounted for by the USA, this work motivates a research agenda on home-host-"other” relations in the context of war and FDI, with the “other” being the supranational “elephant in the room.”



Dai, L. and Paik, Y. (2024), "Propagating a permanent war economy? U.S. FDI in warring host countries", Multinational Business Review, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 98-115.



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