Environmental Economics

Public Preferences for Life Saving Programs

  • Abstract
    The goal of this research is to infer people's marginal rates of substitution between lives saved by different health programs and to compare these rates with the marginal costs of the programs. It is a fact that health and safety programs differ--sometimes by several orders of magnitude--in their cost per life saved. This disparity is especially great if one compares certain public health or accident prevention programs with programs to reduce exposure to environmental cancer causing substances. Differences in the marginal cost of lives saved does not necessarily indicate that resources are misallocated, provided that the marginal cost of lives saved equals society's marginal rate of substitution between lives. The rates of substitution between environmental health and public health programs will be emphasized since it is between these two groups of programs that costs per life saved are thought to differ most. This should suggest where life-saving resources are being allocated efficiently and where they are not. Factors underlying the marginal rates of substitution between lives saved by environmental health and those saved by public programs will also be examined. The analysis will focus on three factors that explain why lives saved by environmental health programs are not viewed as equivalent to lives saved by public health programs: differences in the voluntariness of the risks faced; differences in the equity of the risks addressed by the two programs; and differences in the certainty of the outcomes targeted by both programs.
  • Metadata
    Principal Investigators:
    Cropper, Maureen L.
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    Research Organization:
    Maryland, University of
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