The Value of Statistical Life: A Meta-analysis of Meta-analyses
The Value of Statistical Life (VSL) is arguably the most important number in benefit-cost analyses of environmental, health, and transportation policies. However, agencies have used a wide range of VSL values. One reason may be the embarrassment of riches when it comes to VSL studies. While meta-analysis is a standard way to synthesize information across studies, we now have multiple competing meta-analyses and reviews. Thus, to analysts, picking one such meta-analysis may feel as hard as picking a single "best study." This paper responds by taking the meta-analysis another step, estimating a meta-analysis (or mixture distribution) of six meta-analyses. The baseline model yields a central VSL of $7.0m, with a 90% confidence interval of $2.4m to $11.2m. The provided code allows users to easily change subjective weights on the studies, add new studies, or change adjustments for income, inflation, and latency.
The idea for this work was originally developed under a contract with William H. Desvousges & Associates and Xcel Energy in 2015, as part of an externalities costing study. I thank Bill Desvousges for comments and discussion. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.