Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2360205
 


 



The Cold-War Origins of the Value of Statistical Life (VSL)


H. Spencer Banzhaf


Georgia State University - Department of Economics; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

November 26, 2013

Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Research Paper Series No. 13-16

Abstract:     
This paper traces the history of the "Value of Statistical Life" (VSL), which today is used routinely in benefit-cost analysis of life-saving investments. Schelling (1968) made the crucial move of thinking in terms of risk rather than individual lives, with the hope to dodge the moral thicket of valuing "life." But as recent policy debates have illustrated, his move only thickened it. Tellingly, interest in the subject can be traced back another twenty years before Schelling's essay, to a controversy at the RAND Corporation following its earliest application of operation research to defense planning. RAND wanted to avoid valuing pilot's lives, but the Air Force insisted they confront the issue. Thus, the VSL is not only well acquainted with political controversy; it was born from it.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

Keywords: value of statistical life, history of economic thought, benefit cost analysis, RAND

JEL Classification: B2, D7, H5, I1, J3

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Date posted: November 28, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Banzhaf , H. Spencer, The Cold-War Origins of the Value of Statistical Life (VSL) (November 26, 2013). Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Research Paper Series No. 13-16. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2360205 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2360205

Contact Information

H. Spencer Banzhaf (Contact Author)
Georgia State University - Department of Economics ( email )
P.O. Box 3992
Atlanta, GA 30302-3992
United States
404-413-0252 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www2.gsu.edu/~prchsb/
PERC - Property and Environment Research Center
2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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