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Monday March 05, 2018

What's a Child Worth Asks CPSC Staff in Literature Review

There is support for the idea that the value per statistical life (VSL) for children is higher than for adults, according to a CPSC staff literature review made available February 27. The report ( is an update in a larger VSL project, and it identifies numerous next potential steps, including:

  • Meta-analysis to identify best or central estimates as well as how VSLs are affected by variable between methods.

  • Discussion with valuation experts on their views about the parameters of methods, including finding ways to recognize and avoid bias and heuristic problems.

  • Primary research by CPSC, possibly starting by building on existing staffer research into WTP (willingness to pay) involving the child's age as a variable as well as different effects of incidents (such as death, injury, or illness).

As for the initial findings, the report explained that the review of four papers found that children's VSL exceeded that of adults by factors of 1.2 to 3 with the midpoint near 2. The one that most closely matched the agency's evaluation criteria was at 1.7. There are some suggestions that WTP falls as children get older, but "the rate of decrease varies and only a minority of the studies support this conclusion." The reported cautioned about the small number of studies.


CPSC currently uses a VSL of $8.7 million ( 2014 dollars), but that is focused on adults. The report explains:

"Several studies…address the value of fatal or nonfatal risk reductions that accrue to children. The results…are diverse, but generally suggest that the value of reducing risks to children may be higher than adult values. However, these studies have not been carefully reviewed for quality and applicability to the types of risks and populations addressed by CPSC regulations."