The Benefits of Mortality Risk Reduction: Happiness Surveys vs. The Value of a Statistical Life
Viscusi, W. Kip
A principal component of many benefit-cost analyses (BCAs) of health, safety, and environmental regulations is the valuation of the fatality risk effects of the underlying policy. Government agencies currently value these expected effects using estimates of the value of a statistical life (VSL), that is, the tradeoff rate between money and very small risks of death. This measure corresponds to BCA's theoretically appropriate benefits measure, which is society's willingness to pay for the risk reduction. Here, I will review the VSL approach, compare it to suggested alternatives that use happiness measures of well-being, and address some of the misunderstandings that may be contributing to some researchers' advocacy for the use of happiness scores for policy valuation.