Life-Cycle Consumption and the Age-Adjusted Value of Life

Thomas J. Kniesner, James P. Ziliak, W. Kip Viscusi

NBER Working Paper No. 10266
Issued in February 2004, Revised in November 2005
NBER Program(s):Health Economics, Law and Economics

Our research examines empirically the age pattern of the implicit value of life revealed from workers' differential wages and job safety pairings. Although aging reduces the number of years of life expectancy, aging can affect the value of life through an effect on planned life-cycle consumption. The elderly could, a priori, have the highest implicit value of life if there is a life-cycle plan to defer consumption until old age. We find that largely due to the age pattern of consumption, which is non-constant, the implicit value of life rises and falls over the lifetime in a way that the value for the elderly is higher than the average over all ages or for the young. There are important policy implications of our empirical results. Because there may be age-specific benefits of programs to save statistical lives, instead of valuing the lives of the elderly at less than the young, policymakers should more correctly value the lives of the elderly at as much as twice the young because of relatively greater consumption lost when accidental death occurs.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10266

Published: Kniesner, Thomas, W. Kip Viscusi, and James Ziliak. 2006. "Life-Cycle Consumption and the Age-Adjusted Value of Life," Contributions to Economic Analysis & Policy, Berkeley Electronic Press, vol. 5(1), pages 1524-1524

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