The Heterogeneous Value of a Statistical Life: Evidence from U.S. Army Reenlistment Decisions

76 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2021 Last revised: 10 Jul 2023

See all articles by Kyle Greenberg

Kyle Greenberg

United States Military Academy, West Point

Michael Greenstone

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; Becker Friedman Institute for Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Stephen Ryan

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School

Michael Yankovich

United States Military Academy, West Point

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2021

Abstract

We estimate the value of a statistical life (VSL), or the willingness to trade-off wealth and mortality risk, among 430,000 U.S. Army soldiers choosing whether to reenlist from 2002-2010. Using a discrete choice random utility approach and significant variation in retention bonuses and mortality risk, we recover average VSL estimates between $500,000 and $900,000, an order of magnitude smaller than U.S. civilian labor market estimates. We then document substantial heterogeneity by recovering indifference curves between wealth and mortality risk. The VSL increases with mortality risk within type, and soldiers in combat occupations have lower VSLs than those in noncombat occupations.

Suggested Citation

Greenberg, Kyle and Greenstone, Michael and Ryan, Stephen and Yankovich, Michael, The Heterogeneous Value of a Statistical Life: Evidence from U.S. Army Reenlistment Decisions (July 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w29104, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3897540

Kyle Greenberg (Contact Author)

United States Military Academy, West Point ( email )

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West Point, NY 10996
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Michael Greenstone

University of Chicago - Department of Economics

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
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Becker Friedman Institute for Economics ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Stephen Ryan

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School ( email )

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Campus Box 1133
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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Michael Yankovich

United States Military Academy, West Point ( email )

600 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
United States

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