Teaching Benefit-Cost Analysis
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Teaching Benefit-Cost Analysis

Tools of the Trade

Edited by Scott Farrow

Teaching Benefit-Cost Analysis provides detail and inspiration that extends and clarifies standard textbooks. Each short, self-contained module includes guidance to additional sources while many also provide class exercises. Classes for advanced undergraduates, practitioners, or Masters students could especially apply these tools of the trade.
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Chapter 8: Valuing statistical lives

Lisa A. Robinson


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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