What’s in a Name? A Systematic Search for Alternatives to “Value of Statistical Life”
We describe evidence from focus groups and a formal ranking exercise to gauge the preferences for and acceptance of alternative terms for the “value of statistical life”—the concept of trading off money and small reductions in mortality risks.
Benefit-cost analyses of environmental, health, and safety regulations often rely on an estimate of the “value of statistical life,” or VSL, to calculate the aggregate benefits of human mortality risk reductions in monetary terms. The VSL represents the marginal rate of substitution between mortality risk and money, and while well-understood by economists, to many non-economists, decision-makers, media professionals, and others, the term resembles obfuscated jargon bordering on the immoral. This paper describes a series of seven focus groups in which we applied a systematic approach for identifying and testing alternatives to the VSL terminology. Our objective was to identify a term that better communicates the VSL concept. Specifically, a list of 17 alternatives to the VSL term was developed and tested in focus groups that culminated in a formal ranking exercise. Using a round-robin tournament approach to analyze the data, and our qualitative judgments, we identify “value of reduced mortality risk” as the dominant replacement term among the alternatives tested.
On the Issues — Sep 22, 2023
On the Issues: Equitable Climate Policy, Value of a Statistical Life, and More
A biweekly newsletter connecting global current events, pressing climate and energy policy news, and economics research from RFF scholars. This week: equitable climate policy, value of a statistical life, and more.
Common Resources — Sep 21, 2023
Rethinking the Value of a Statistical Life
The value of statistical life is a number that informs analyses of the benefits and costs of regulations. But the number that the US Environmental Protection Agency currently uses needs attention: it hasn’t been updated since 1997.
Resources Radio — Sep 19, 2023
Climate Policy and Environmental Justice in New York, with Victoria Sanders and Molly Robertson
Victoria Sanders and Molly Robertson discuss the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in New York State, options for implementing the law, and the different benefits that these options could provide among different communities.