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Columbia Law Review


In protecting safety, health, and the environment, government has increasingly relied on cost-benefit analysis. In undertaking cost-benefit analysis, the government has monetized risks of death through the idea of the value of a statistical life (VSL), currently assessed at about $6.1 million. But the government should rely instead on the value of a statistical life-year (VSLY), in a way that would likely result in lower benefits calculations for elderly people, and higher benefits calculations for children. The hard question involves not whether to undertake this shift, but how to monetize life-years, and here willingness to pay (WTP) is generally the place not to end but to begin.

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