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Discounting Statistical Lives

John Horowitz () and Richard Carson

Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 1990, vol. 3, issue 4, 403-13

Abstract: Benefit-cost analysis of government projects that reduce health risks over an extended period of time requires an estimate of the value of a future life. This in turn requires a discount rate. We suggest and carry out a method to estimate the discount rate using observations on discrete choices between projects with different time horizons. This method is implemented in a survey context. For our primary example, the estimated median discount rate is close to the market rate. A substantial proportion of the sample is estimated to have quite low discount rates. We provide some evidence that discount rates may differ for different types of risks. Copyright 1990 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

Date: 1990
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