Euthanizing value of a statistical life: monetizing differences in public perception and alternatives

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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. There is some controversy associated with the language describing monetary values for changes in health or mortality risks, especially the term ‘value of a statistical life’ (VSL). We investigate if the general public distinguishes differences in language describing the concept of VSL using four different descriptive treatments. Based on a survey of willingness to accept (WTA) in which individuals receive payment to participate in a future study, results show that the general public does not perceive a difference in the language used to describe changes in risks. This suggests that public objections to the VSL may not be caused by the specific description used nor can be ameliorated by refinement. Further, the results alleviate concern that language chosen may affect respondent participation and welfare estimates. Because of its apparent absence in the literature, we also adapt and demonstrate a non-parametric conservative estimate of WTA.

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Applied Economics

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