Estimating the Value of Statistical Life (VSL) Losses from COVID-19 Infections in the United States
29 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2020 Last revised: 6 Dec 2021
Date Written: December 3, 2021
This paper uses the Value of Statistical Life (VSL) literature to weigh the costs and benefits of non-pharmaceutical interventions of the U.S. COVID-19 stay-at-home orders that affected 92 percent of the U.S. workforce at their peak in April 2020. We calculate the pre-vaccine COVID-19 infection fatality rate to have been 0.85 percent. We find that the stay-at-home orders saved most likely about 71,000 lives and led to a net benefit to the United States of 1.7 percent of GDP after accounting for lives saved and drops in workforce participation. Through October 31, 2021, the VSL of U.S. lives lost to COVID-19 was over $8.4 trillion.
Keywords: cost-benefit, CFR, COVID-19, IFR, NPI, SARS-CoV-2, social distancing, stay-at-home orders, VSL
JEL Classification: G22, I1, I18, J31, J65, K32
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