Valuing lives equally: Distributional weights for welfare analysis
Cost-benefit analysis as performed by governments and public-sector organisations typically applies equal weights to changes in incomes accruing to individuals from projects even when there is no proposal to compensate losers. One reason for the use of equal weights despite the absence of a theoretical justification for this practice is that all weights appear arbitrary. This note proposes the use of weights based on two axioms: (1) that all lives should be equally valued, and (2) that the monetary value attached to a person's life should be his or her own. This implies weights that are proportional to the reciprocals of the values of statistical lives
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- Sen, Amartya, 1973. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198281931, December.
- Dreze, Jean & Stern, Nicholas, 1987. "The theory of cost-benefit analysis," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 14, pages 909-989 Elsevier.
- Azar, Christian & Sterner, Thomas, 1996. "Discounting and distributional considerations in the context of global warming," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 169-184, November.
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