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01-06 "The $6.1 Million Dollar Question"


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  • Kevin P. Gallagher
  • Francisco Aguayo


What is the dollar value of saving a human life? Cost-benefit analysis of health and environmental regulation requires such a number, yet the concept raises numerous ethical and philosophical questions. There are good general reasons to reject the entire enterprise of monetizing life, and specific reasons to criticize the methods used to create such values. Valuations of life are most often based on analysis of the wage premium for risky jobs. Recent EPA analyses have relied on an extensive but dated database of wage-risk estimates, leading to an inflation-adjusted estimate of $6.1 million per life in 1999 dollars. A more appropriate interpretation of that database implies an estimate of at least $9-11 million. Some newer studies suggest much lower values - perhaps due to the weakened bargaining position of labor, a factor that has nothing to do with the value of environmental risk. The risk premium for working women is five times as great as for men, underscoring the impossibility of a "one size fits all" estimate of the value of a statistical life. Such values are not necessary for reasonable decision-making about how to reduce fatal risks.

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Paper provided by GDAE, Tufts University in its series GDAE Working Papers with number 01-06.

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Handle: RePEc:dae:daepap:01-06

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Cited by:
  1. Julie A. Nelson, . "10-03 "The Relational Economy: A Buddhist and Feminist Analysis"," GDAE Working Papers 10-03, GDAE, Tufts University.
  2. Timothy A. Wise, . "09-08 "Agricultural Dumping Under NAFTA: Estimating the Costs of U.S. Agricultural Policies to Mexican Producers"," GDAE Working Papers 09-08, GDAE, Tufts University.
  3. Kevin P. Gallagher & Robin Taylor, . "03-08 "International Trade and Air Pollution: The Economic Costs of Air Emissions from Waterborne Commerce Vessels in the United States"," GDAE Working Papers 03-08, GDAE, Tufts University.
  4. Julie A. Nelson, 2011. "11-02 "Ethics and the Economist: What Climate Change Demands of Us"," GDAE Working Papers 11-02, GDAE, Tufts University.
  5. Frank Ackerman & Timothy A. Wise & Kevin P. Gallagher & Luke Ney & Regina Flores, . "03-06 "Free Trade, Corn, and the Environment: Environmental Impacts of US – Mexico Corn Trade Under NAFTA"," GDAE Working Papers 03-06, GDAE, Tufts University.
  6. Julie A. Nelson, . "10-02 "Care Ethics and Markets: A View from Feminist Economics"," GDAE Working Papers 10-02, GDAE, Tufts University.
  7. Julie A. Nelson, . "09-07 "Getting Past "Rational Man/Emotional Woman": How Far Have Research Programs in Happiness and Interpersonal Relations Progressed?"," GDAE Working Papers 09-07, GDAE, Tufts University.
  8. Julie A. Nelson, . "09-06 "Between a Rock and a Soft Place: Ecological and Feminist Economics in Policy Debates"," GDAE Working Papers 09-06, GDAE, Tufts University.
  9. Julie A. Nelson, . "09-04 "Sociology, Economics, and Gender: Can Knowledge of the Past Contribute to a Better Future?"," GDAE Working Papers 09-04, GDAE, Tufts University.
  10. Jonathan M. Harris & Neva R. Goodwin, . "03-03 "Reconciling Growth and Environment"," GDAE Working Papers 03-03, GDAE, Tufts University.
  11. Jonathan M. Harris, . "10-05 "The Macroeconomics of Development without Throughput Growth"," GDAE Working Papers 10-05, GDAE, Tufts University.
  12. Timothy A. Wise & Sarah E. Trist, . "10-04 "Buyer Power in U.S. Hog Markets: A Critical Review of the Literature"," GDAE Working Papers 10-04, GDAE, Tufts University.
  13. Lyuba Zarsky, . "10-01 "Climate-Resilient Industrial Development Paths: Design Principles and Alternative Models"," GDAE Working Papers 10-01, GDAE, Tufts University.
  14. Maria del Carmen Vera-Diaz & Robert K. Kaufmann & Daniel C. Nepstad, . "09-05 "The Environmental Impacts of Soybean Expansion and Infrastructure Development in Brazil’s Amazon Basin"," GDAE Working Papers 09-05, GDAE, Tufts University.


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