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Policy Monitor How US Government Agencies Value Mortality Risk Reductions

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  • Lisa A. Robinson

Abstract

One challenging task faced by US government agencies is determining whether the benefits of their proposed regulations justify the costs. For benefits associated with reducing the risks of premature mortality, they rely on an analytic construct—the value per statistical life (VSL)—which aggregates the value of small changes in mortality risk across a large population; it is not the value of saving a particular person's life. Empirical research suggests that this value ranges from roughly $1 million to $10 million per statistical life. While federal agencies usually apply values from within this range, they vary in the exact estimates used.The research literature generally addresses mortality risks and populations that differ in some significant respects from those addressed by most major regulations. A particularly contentious issue has been whether to adjust the estimates to reflect age differences. One approach involves translating VSL estimates into a value per statistical life year (VSLY) to take into account the number of years of life extension. Because the years of life extension are closely related to age, the use of a VSLY approach generally results in lower values for older individuals. However, the relationship of the VSL to age or life expectancy is complex, and such adjustments have raised significant concerns about the equitable treatment of individuals of different ages in the development of federal policy. Copyright 2007, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Lisa A. Robinson, 2007. "Policy Monitor How US Government Agencies Value Mortality Risk Reductions," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 1(2), pages 283-299, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:renvpo:v:1:y:2007:i:2:p:283-299
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/reep/rem018
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    Cited by:

    1. Adler, Matthew D. & Hammitt, James K. & Treich, Nicolas, 2014. "The social value of mortality risk reduction: VSL versus the social welfare function approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 82-93.
    2. Hammitt, James & Haninger, Kevin, 2010. "Diminishing Willingness to Pay per Quality-Adjusted Life Year: Valuing Acute Foodborne Illness," LERNA Working Papers 11.01.335, LERNA, University of Toulouse.
    3. Henrik Andersson & Nicolas Treich, 2011. "The Value of a Statistical Life," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Transport Economics, chapter 17 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Adler, Matthew & Hammitt, James & Treich, Nicolas, 2012. "The Social Value of Mortality Risk Reduction: VSL vs. the Social Welfare Function Approach," LERNA Working Papers 12.08.365, LERNA, University of Toulouse.
    5. Lakdawalla, Darius N. & Seabury, Seth A., 2012. "The welfare effects of medical malpractice liability," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 356-369.
    6. Jonathan M. Lee & Laura O. Taylor, 2014. "Randomized Safety Inspections And Risk Exposure On The Job: Quasi-Experimental Estimates Of The Value Of A Statistical Life," Working Papers 14-05, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    7. Doucouliagos, Chris & Stanley, T.D. & Giles, Margaret, 2012. "Are estimates of the value of a statistical life exaggerated?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 197-206.
    8. Joseph H. Cook, 2013. "Principles and standards for benefit–cost analysis of public health preparedness and pandemic mitigation programs," Chapters,in: Principles and Standards for Benefit–Cost Analysis, chapter 3, pages 110-152 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Evans, Mary F. & Schaur, Georg, 2010. "A quantile estimation approach to identify income and age variation in the value of a statistical life," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 260-270, May.
    10. Louise Russell, 2014. "The Science of Making Better Decisions about Health: Cost-Effectiveness and Cost-Benefit Analysis," Departmental Working Papers 201406, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
    11. repec:spr:ijphth:v:62:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s00038-017-0943-z is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Scotton Carol R., 2013. "New risk rates, inter-industry differentials and the magnitude of VSL estimates," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 39-80, March.

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