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The Value of Life

18 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2005 Last revised: 27 Nov 2012

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

Abstract

The economic approach to valuing risks to life focuses on risk-money tradeoffs for very small risks of death, or the value of statistical life (VSL). These VSL levels will generally exceed the optimal insurance amounts. A substantial literature has estimated the wage-fatality risk tradeoffs, implying a median VSL of $7 million for U.S. workers. International evidence often indicates a lower VSL, which is consistent with the lower income levels in less developed countries. Preference heterogeneity also generates different tradeoff rates across the population as people who are more willing to bear risk will exhibit lower wage-risk tradeoffs.

Keywords: value of life, risk regulation

JEL Classification: I10, J17, J28

Suggested Citation

Viscusi, W. Kip, The Value of Life. New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law, 2nd Edition; Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 08-04. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=827205

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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