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Policy Brief—What’s in a Name? A Search for Alternatives to “VSL”

Nathalie Simon, Chris Dockins, Kelly B Maguire, Stephen Newbold (), Alan J Krupnick and Laura Taylor ()

Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 2019, vol. 13, issue 1, 155-161

Abstract: Benefit–cost analyses of environmental, health, and safety regulations often rely on an estimate of the value of statistical life (VSL) to calculate the aggregate benefits of reducing human mortality risk. The VSL represents the marginal rate of substitution between mortality risk and money. Although this concept is well understood by economists, it is viewed by many noneconomists as confusing technical jargon that borders on the immoral. Based on focus groups and a quantitative ranking exercise, this article describes a systematic approach for identifying and testing alternatives to the VSL terminology, with the goal of identifying an alternative term that more clearly communicates the VSL concept to a broad audience.

Date: 2019
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