How to Value a Life

26 Pages Posted: 28 May 2008

See all articles by W. Kip Viscusi

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

Date Written: March 18, 2008

Abstract

The tradeoff between money and small risks of death is the value of statistical life (VSL), which has become the standard for assessing the benefits of risk and environmental regulations. Labor market estimates of the VSL average about $7 million. This valuation amount rises with age and then declines, closely tracking the pattern of consumption over the life cycle. The VSL for those at age 60 is higher than for people in their 20s. Application of this methodology to assess the mortality costs to smokers indicates a personal mortality cost on the order of $200 per pack for men and $100 for women using a 3 percent discount rate, but based on smokers' rates of time preference the costs are reduced by about an order of magnitude.

Keywords: value of statistical life, mortality costs, smoking, job risks

JEL Classification: I18, J17, J18

Suggested Citation

Viscusi, W. Kip, How to Value a Life (March 18, 2008). Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 08-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1137978 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1137978

W. Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

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