Two-income couples in the United States seem to behave as if, on average, they think the value of a human life is really somewhere between $9 million and $13 million.
Joseph Aldy, an economist at Harvard University, gives that estimate in a new working paper based on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey program, for the period from 1996 through 2002.
Aldy published the working paper, or preliminary version of the paper, on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
Other economists have also tried to estimate how much people think a human life is worth.
Aldy came up with a new approach for doing so, based on job-related risk exposure and earnings differences in two-income couples. Because two people in the same couple tend to be similar to each other, using couples-based differences data can filter out many difficult-to-measure factors, such as age and income, that may throw off other types of human-life-value estimates, Aldy writes in the paper.