Tools of the Trade
Edited by Scott Farrow
Chapter 8: Valuing statistical lives
The value of small changes in mortality risks, conventionally expressed as the value per statistical life (VSL), is an important parameter in benefit-cost analysis. These risk reductions often dominate the benefit estimates for environmental, health and safety policies and regulations. As a result, their value has been extensively studied, raising questions about how to best synthesize the resulting research and to adjust it for different contexts. The VSL terminology has led to substantial confusion about what is being measured, however. The VSL reflects individuals’ willingness to pay for small reductions in their own mortality risks within a defined time period. It is not the value of preventing certain death.
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