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Measuring the Value of a Statistical Life: Problems and Prospects

  • Orley Ashenfelter

Tradeoffs between monetary wealth and fatal safety risks are summarized in the value of a statistical life (VSL), a measure that is widely used for the evaluation of public policies in medicine, the environment, and transportation safety. This paper demonstrates the widespread use of this concept and summarizes the major issues, both theoretical and empirical, that must be confronted in order to provide a credible estimate of a VSL. The paper concludes with an application of these issues to a particular study of speed limits and highway safety.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11916.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Ashenfelter, Orley. "Measuring The Value Of A Statistical Life: Problems And Prospects," Economic Journal, 2006, v116(510,Mar), C10-C23.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11916
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  1. Orley Ashenfelter & Michael Greenstone, 2004. "Using Mandated Speed Limits to Measure the Value of a Statistical Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages S226-S267, February.
  2. Dan A. Black & Thomas J. Kniesner, 2003. "On the Measurement of Job Risk in Hedonic Wage Models," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 49, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  3. Milton C. Weinstein, 2005. "Spending Health Care Dollars Wisely: Can Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Help? 16th Annual Herbert Lourie Memorial Lecture on Health Policy," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 30, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  4. Glenn C. Blomquist, 2003. "Self Protection and Averting Behavior, Values of Statistical Lives, and Benefit Cost Analysis of Environmental Policy," NCEE Working Paper Series 200302, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Mar 2003.
  5. Richard Thaler & Sherwin Rosen, 1976. "The Value of Saving a Life: Evidence from the Labor Market," NBER Chapters, in: Household Production and Consumption, pages 265-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Hersch, Joni, 1998. "Compensating Differentials for Gender-Specific Job Injury Risks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 598-627, June.
  7. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
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