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Changes in the Value of Life: 1940-1980

  • Dora L. Costa
  • Matthew E. Kahn

We present the first nation wide value of life estimates for the United States at more than one point in time. Our estimates are for every ten years between 1940 and 1980, a period when declines in fatal accident rates were historically unprecedented. Our estimated elasticity of value of life with respect to per capita GNP is 1.5 to 1.7. We illustrate the importance of rising value of life for policy evaluation by examining the benefits of improved longevity since 1900, showing that the current marginal increase in longevity is more valuable than the large increase in the first half of the twentieth century.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9396.

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Date of creation: Dec 2002
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Publication status: published as Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2004. "Changes in the Value of Life, 1940--1980," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 29(2), pages 159-180, 09.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9396
Note: AG DAE HC HE
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