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Sample Selection in the Estimation of Air Bag and Seat Belt Effectiveness

  • Steven D. Levitt
  • Jack Porter

Measurement of seat belt and air bag effectiveness is complicated by the fact that systematic data are collected only for crashes in which a fatality occurs. These data suffer from sample selection since seat belt and air bag usage influences survival rates which in turn determine whether a crash is included in the sample. Past researchers either ignored sample selection or adopted indirect estimation methods subject to other important biases. We propose a simple, but novel, solution to the selection problem: limiting the sample to crashes in which someone in a different vehicle dies. Under relatively weak conditions, consistent estimates can be obtained from this restricted sample. Empirically, we find seat belts to be more effective in saving lives than most previous estimates. Air bags, however, appear to be less effective than generally thought. If our coefficients can be generalized to all crashes, the cost per life saved with seat belts is approximately $30,000, compared to $1.6 million for air bags.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7210.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7210.

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Date of creation: Jul 1999
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Publication status: published as Levitt, Steven D. and Jack Porter. "Sample Selection In The Estimation Of Air Bag And Seat Belt Effectiveness," Review of Economics and Statistics, 2001, v83(4,Nov), 603-615.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7210
Note: LE PE
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  1. Lave, Charles & Elias, Patrick, 1997. "Resource Allocation in Public Policy: The Effects of the 65-MPH Speed Limit," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(3), pages 614-20, July.
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  4. Heckman, James J. & Lalonde, Robert J. & Smith, Jeffrey A., 1999. "The economics and econometrics of active labor market programs," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 31, pages 1865-2097 Elsevier.
  5. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  6. Saffer, Henry & Grossman, Michael, 1987. "Drinking Age Laws and Highway Mortality Rates: Cause and Effect," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 25(3), pages 403-17, July.
  7. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-75, March.
  8. Peltzman, Sam, 1975. "The Effects of Automobile Safety Regulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 677-725, August.
  9. Michael Grossman & Frank J. Chaloupka & Henry Saffer & Adit Laixuthai, 1993. "Effects of Alcohol Price Policy on Youth," NBER Working Papers 4385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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