Occupational Risk and Rights-Based Fisheries Policy: Studying Changes in
the Deadliest Catch
Joint with Kurt E. Schnier
Crab fishing in the Alaskan Bering Sea is the most dangerous job in the U.S.. Nonetheless, crab boats put to sea and continue fishing under extreme weather conditions to bring home crab and reap the benefits of its high market value. The exploits of these fishermen have been popularized in the Discovery Channel show: The Deadliest Catch. This study uses measures of risks and rewards in this deadly occupation to estimate the VSL. The research (sponsored by the National Science Foundation) was informed by a visit to Dutch Harbor Alaska in February 2008 to interview crab boat captains and crew. Read the trip blog. The results can be found in Schnier, Horrace and Felthoven (2008).
The Value of a Statistical Life: Risks & Rewards in the Himalaya
Himalayan mountain guides lead expeditions where deaths are not uncommon. This study estimates the VSL from the risk/reward behavior of these guides. What makes this labor study different from most is that fatality risks change from peak to peak and from trail to trail within the Himalayans, and we can think of each expedition as a different job (in terms of risk) for each guide. Most studies observe each worker in only one or two different jobs (risk environments). In this study we observe subjects in a variety of risk environments. This increased variability of risk improves the quality of the VSL estimates obtained. Another feature of this study is that the guides truly understand the fatality risks of their occupation. This may not be the case for workers in typical labor studies, in which worker ignorance of the risks can bias VSL estimates.
Pinning Down the Value of Statistical Life
Joint with W. Kip Viscusi, Christopher Woock, and James P. Ziliak
Our research addresses fundamental long-standing concerns in the compensating wage differentials literature and its public policy implications: the econometric properties of estimates of the value of statistical life (VSL) and the wide range of such estimates from about $0.5 million to about $21 million. We address most of the prominent econometric issues by applying panel data, a new and more accurate fatality risk measure, and systematic selection of panel estimator in our research. Controlling for measurement error, endogeneity, individual heterogeneity, and state dependence yields both a reasonable average level and narrow range for the estimated value of a statistical life of about $5.5-$7.5 million.
Estimates of the Willingness-to-Pay to Avoid Military Service and Fatality Risk: Evidence from the Vietnam Draft
In this research, the effects of the Vietnam draft on college attendance are compared to the effects of tuition on college attendance. Through this comparison, it is possible to express in dollar units young men's willingness-to-pay to avoid conscription. In 2003 dollars, it is estimated that young men were willing to pay $10,000 to $35,000 to avoid being drafted. Fatality risk is one of many reasons why young men avoided the draft. If we assume it was the only reason, then we can obtain an upper bound for the value of a statistical life. The upper bound obtained ranges from $1.1 million to $4.0 million. This upper bound is on the low end of current estimates of the value of life.