IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/9094.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Using Mandated Speed Limits to Measure the Value of a Statistical Life

Author

Listed:
  • Orley Ashenfelter
  • Michael Greenstone

Abstract

In 1987 the federal government permitted states to raise the speed limit on their rural interstate roads, but not on their urban interstate roads, from 55 mph to 65 mph for the first time in over a decade. Since the states that adopted the higher speed limit must have valued the travel hours they saved more than the fatalities incurred, this experiment provides a way to estimate an upper bound on the public's willingness to trade off wealth for a change in the probability of death. We find that the 65 mph limit increased speeds by approximately 3.5% (i.e., 2 mph), and increased fatality rates by roughly 35%. In the 21 states that raised the speed limit and for whom we have complete data, the estimates suggest that about 125,000 hours were saved per lost life. Valuing the time saved at the average hourly wage implies that adopting states were willing to accept risks that resulted in a savings of $1.54 million (1997$) per fatality, with a sampling error that might be around one-third this value. Since this estimate is an upper bound of the value of a statistical life (VSL), we set out a simple structural model that is identified by variability across the states in the probability of the adoption of increased speed limits to recover the VSL. The impirical implementation of this model produces estimates of the VSL that are generally smaller that $1.54 million, but these estimates are very imprecise.

Suggested Citation

  • Orley Ashenfelter & Michael Greenstone, 2002. "Using Mandated Speed Limits to Measure the Value of a Statistical Life," NBER Working Papers 9094, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9094
    Note: HC LS PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9094.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ghosh, Debapriya & Lees, Dennis & Seal, William, 1975. "Optimal Motorway Speed and Some Valuations of Time and Life," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 43(2), pages 134-143, June.
    2. Hersch, Joni, 1998. "Compensating Differentials for Gender-Specific Job Injury Risks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 598-627, June.
    3. Viscusi, W Kip, 1993. "The Value of Risks to Life and Health," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 1912-1946, December.
    4. Keeler, Theodore E, 1994. "Highway Safety, Economic Behavior, and Driving Environment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 684-693, June.
    5. Lee, N & Dalvi, M Q, 1969. "Variations in the Value of Travel Time," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 37(3), pages 213-236, September.
    6. Ruhm, Christopher J., 1996. "Alcohol policies and highway vehicle fatalities," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 435-454, August.
    7. Levy, David T & Asch, Peter, 1989. "Speeding, Coordination, and the 55-MPH Limit: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 913-915, September.
    8. Lave, Charles, 1989. "Speeding, Coordination, and the 55-MPH Limit: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 926-931, September.
    9. Glenn C. Blomquist, 2004. "Self-Protection and Averting Behavior, Values of Statistical Lives, and Benefit Cost Analysis of Environmental Policy," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 89-110, March.
    10. Dee, Thomas S., 1999. "State alcohol policies, teen drinking and traffic fatalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 289-315, May.
    11. 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.
    12. Deacon, Robert T & Sonstelie, Jon, 1985. "Rationing by Waiting and the Value of Time: Results from a Natural Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(4), pages 627-647, August.
    13. Lave, Charles A, 1985. "Speeding, Coordination, and the 55 MPH Limit," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1159-1164, December.
    14. Snyder, Donald, 1989. "Speeding, Coordination, and the 55-MPH Limit: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 922-925, September.
    15. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-838, May.
    16. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
    17. 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 614-620, July.
    18. Fowles, Richard & Loeb, Peter D, 1989. "Speeding, Coordination, and the 55-MPH Limit: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 916-921, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J17 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Value of Life; Foregone Income
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9094. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: () or (Joanne Lustig). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.