The Value of Statistical Life

Kip Viscusi, Vanderbilt university

Thursday, September 13, 4:00 p.m.
7th Floor of the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery
Kip Viscusi, Vanderbilt University Distinguished Professor
“The Value of Statistical Life”

Social Sciences Forum
Mullen Lecture
Sponsored by the Department of Economics

The value of statistical life (VSL) is the tradeoff between small levels of risk and money.  This measure forms the basis for assessing the benefits of government policies that reduce risks, such as regulatory efforts. Recent economic research has developed estimates of the heterogeneity of the value of statistical life (VSL) on dimensions such as individual age, income, immigrant status, and the nature of the risk exposure. This presentation examines the empirical evidence on the heterogeneity of VSL and explores the potential implications for the valuation of regulatory policies. One example of a situation in which government agencies recognized differences in VLS is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unsuccessfully sought to adopt a simple age discount percentage for VSL based on survey evidence. I will discuss the “senior discount” issue as well as differences in VSL with age, income, and immigrant status.

W. Kip Viscusi is Vanderbilt’s first University Distinguished Professor, with primary appointments in the Department of Economics and the Owen Graduate School of Management as well as in the Law School. Professor Viscusi is the award-winning author of more than 20 books and 300 articles, most of which deal with different aspects of health and safety risks. His pathbreaking research has addressed a wide range of individual and societal responses to risk and uncertainty, including risky behaviors, government regulation, and tort liability. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on benefit-cost analysis.

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