Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 165–184

Valuing Mortality-Risk Reduction: Using Visual Aids to Improve the Validity of Contingent Valuation


  • Phaedra S. Corso
    • Centers for Disease Control and PreventionEpidemiology Program Office
  • James K. Hammitt
    • Center for Risk AnalysisHarvard School of Public Health
  • John D. Graham
    • Center for Risk AnalysisHarvard School of Public Health

DOI: 10.1023/A:1011184119153

Cite this article as:
Corso, P.S., Hammitt, J.K. & Graham, J.D. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty (2001) 23: 165. doi:10.1023/A:1011184119153


We investigate the validity of contingent valuation (CV) estimates of the value per statistical life (VSL). We test for sensitivity of estimated willingness to pay (WTP) to the magnitude of mortality-risk reduction and for the theoretically predicted proportionality of WTP to risk reduction using alternative visual aids to communicate risk. We find that WTP is sensitive to the magnitude of risk reduction for independent subsamples of respondents presented with each of three alternative visual aids, but not for the subsample presented with no visual aid. Estimated WTP is consistent with proportionality to risk reduction for the subsamples presented with a logarithmic scale or an array of 25,000 dots, but not for the subsample receiving a linear scale. These results suggest that CV can provide valid estimates of WTP for mortality-risk reduction if appropriate methods are used to communicate the risk change to respondents.

contingent valuationVSLWTPsensitivity to scoperisk communicationrisk ladder

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001