Changes in the Value of Life: 1940-1980

31 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2002 Last revised: 31 Oct 2010

See all articles by Dora L. Costa

Dora L. Costa

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Matthew E. Kahn

University of Southern California; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: December 2002

Abstract

We present the first nation wide value of life estimates for the United States at more than one point in time. Our estimates are for every ten years between 1940 and 1980, a period when declines in fatal accident rates were historically unprecedented. Our estimated elasticity of value of life with respect to per capita GNP is 1.5 to 1.7. We illustrate the importance of rising value of life for policy evaluation by examining the benefits of improved longevity since 1900, showing that the current marginal increase in longevity is more valuable than the large increase in the first half of the twentieth century.

Suggested Citation

Costa, Dora L. and Kahn, Matthew E., Changes in the Value of Life: 1940-1980 (December 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w9396. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=364740

Dora L. Costa (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics ( email )

Box 951477
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1477
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Matthew E. Kahn

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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