HC Statistics

How much is your life worth?

In a previous post, I answered this question from the perspective of government agencies:

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the answer is $10 million.  Other agencies place use a somewhat lower number.  The Food and Drug administration pegs the value at $9.5 million and the Department of Agriculture places the value at $8.9 million.

However, a new systematic literature review by Keller et al. (2021) tries to answer this questions based on published research. Of the 120 included in the systematic review of the value of a statistical life (VSL), 63% were stated preference (e.g., contingent valuation, discrete choice experiment), 36% were revealed preference (e.g., compensating wage differentials), and 1% used the human capital approach. Based on this approach, the authors found that:

Estimates for VSL varied substantially by context (sector, developed/developing country, socio-economic status, etc), with the median of midpoint purchasing power parity–adjusted estimates of 2019 US$5.7 million ($6.8 million, $8.7 million, and $5.3 million for health, labor market, and transportation safety sectors, respectively).

The authors also note that:

Overall, the VSL literature suggests that individuals value a life-year more highly than willingness-to-pay thresholds used in health technology assessment.


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