12:00—1:30 PM
Center for Global Development
2055 L St NW
- Fifth Floor

What's the Economic Value of a Life? Early Behavior-Based Estimates from Africa

Gianmarco León
Lead Economist
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics and Business
Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Gianmarco León will present his new paper, co-authored with Ted Miguel, in which they exploit an unusual transportation setting to estimate the value of a statistical life (VSL). They use the case of Sierra Leone, where the international airport is separated from the capital Freetown. They estimate the trade-offs individuals are willing to make between mortal risk and cost as they travel to and from the international airport in Sierra Leone by choosing from among multiple transportation options – namely, ferry, helicopter, hovercraft, and water taxi.

León and Miguel find that the average VSL estimate for African travelers in the sample is US$577,000 compared to US$924,000 for non-Africans. Individual characteristics, particularly job earnings, can largely account for the difference between Africans and non-Africans; Africans in the sample typically earn less. These revealed preference VSL estimates from a developing country fill an important gap in the existing literature, and can be used for a variety of public policy purposes, including in current debates within Sierra Leone regarding the desirability of constructing new transportation infrastructure.

*Help us rename the MADS! You may have heard CGD is no longer located on Massachusetts Ave. We are therefore looking for a new name for the Massachusetts Avenue Development Seminar (MADS). Send ideas to Events@CGDev.org. Extra points for ideas that yield MADS as an acronym!

Now in its thirteenth year, the MADS series brings some of the world's leading development scholars to discuss their new research and ideas. The presentations meet an academic standard of quality and are at times technical, but retain a focus on a mixed audience of researchers and policymakers.


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