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Social Willingness to Pay, Mortality Risks and Contingent Valuation

  • Olivier Armantier
  • Nicolas Treich


The Willingness-to-Pay approach is the basic justification for the use of the Contingent Valuation method to evaluate public mortality risk reduction programs. However, aggregating unweighted willingness-to-pay is a valid method only when individuals have the same marginal value of money, an unrealistic assumption in the presence of heterogeneity. We show that heterogeneity on wealth and baseline risk (respectively on risk reduction) leads to systematically overestimate (respectively underestimate) the social value of a risk reduction program. Using a recently published Contingent Valuation analysis, we find this overestimation to be quite modest though, approximately 15% in an upper bound case.

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Risk and Uncertainty.

Volume (Year): 29 (2004)
Issue (Month): 1 (07)
Pages: 7-19

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jrisku:v:29:y:2004:i:1:p:7-19
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  1. Harberger, Arnold C, 1971. "Three Basic Postulates for Applied Welfare Economics: An Interpretive Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 785-97, September.
  2. Viscusi, W Kip, 1993. "The Value of Risks to Life and Health," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 1912-46, December.
  3. Corso, Phaedra S & Hammitt, James K & Graham, John D, 2001. " Valuing Mortality-Risk Reduction: Using Visual Aids to Improve the Validity of Contingent Valuation," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 165-84, September.
  4. Krupnick, Alan, et al, 2002. " Age, Health and the Willingness to Pay for Mortality Risk Reductions: A Contingent Valuation Survey of Ontario Residents," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 161-86, March.
  5. Peter A. Diamond & Jerry A. Hausman, 1994. "Contingent Valuation: Is Some Number Better than No Number?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 45-64, Fall.
  6. A. B. Atkinson & N. H. Stern, 1974. "Pigou, Taxation and Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 119-128.
  7. Charles Blackorby & David Donaldson, 1990. "A Review Article: The Case against the Use of the Sum of Compensating Variations in Cost-Benefit Analysis," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 23(3), pages 471-94, August.
  8. Boadway, Robin W, 1974. "The Welfare Foundations of Cost-Benefit Analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 84(336), pages 926-39, December.
  9. Myles,Gareth D., 1995. "Public Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521497695.
  10. Ulph, Alistair, 1982. "The role of ex ante and ex post decisions in the valuation of life," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 265-276, July.
  11. A. B. Atkinson & N. H. Stern, 1974. "Pigou, Taxation and Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 119-128.
  12. Pratt, John W & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1996. "Willingness to Pay and the Distribution of Risk and Wealth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(4), pages 747-63, August.
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