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Best Estimate Selection Bias in the Value of a Statistical Life

  • W. Kip Viscusi (a1)
Abstract

Selection of the best estimates of economic parameters frequently relies on the “best estimates” or a meta-analysis of the “best set” of parameter estimates from the literature. Using an all-set dataset consisting of all reported estimates of the value of a statistical life (VSL) as well as a best-set sample of the best estimates from these studies, this article estimates statistically significant publication selection biases in each case. Biases are much greater for the best-set sample, as one might expect, given the subjective nature of the best-set selection process. For the all-set sample, the mean bias-corrected estimate of the VSL for the preferred specification is $8.1 million for the whole sample and $11.4 million based on the CFOI data, while for the best-set results, the whole sample value is $3.5 million, and the CFOI data estimate is $4.4 million. Previous estimates of huge publication selection biases in the VSL estimates are attributable to these studies’ reliance on best-set samples.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Footnotes
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The author is indebted to Clayton Masterman for superb research assistance and Tom Stanley, the editors, and two anonymous referees for valuable insights. This paper was presented at the 2016 MAER-Net Colloquium and at the 2017 Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis Conference.

Footnotes
References
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Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis
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