Estimating an Altruism Adjusted Measure of the Value of a Statistical Life
WCPC Seminar Series on Poverty and Policy: Autumn 2013
October 28, 2013
Presented by Mark Long, Associate Professor of Public Affairs, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington
Mark C. Long joined the Evans School faculty in 2004. Long is an associate professor of public affairs and adjunct associate professor of economics. He holds a Ph.D. and MA in Economics from the University of Michigan. He also holds an MPP from the University of Michigan, and a BA from DePauw University. He is affiliated with several centers including Scholars Strategy Network, West Coast Poverty Center, Center for Education Data & Research, and the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology.
By not taking into account the social value of an individual’s life, standard estimates of the Value of a Statistical Life (VSL) used in benefit-cost analyses may be under- or over-valuing life. Relying on a stated-preference survey, this paper estimates individuals’ altruism multipliers as a function of the age and social proximity of the person who would be affected by the death, as well as by the distributional effects of policies on individuals’ probabilities of death. Survey responses indicate that the VSL altruism multiplier is substantially greater than one, suggesting that we are greatly undervaluing life in federal regulatory reviews.