Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 165-184

First online:

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

  • Phaedra S. CorsoAffiliated withCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, Epidemiology Program Office
  • , James K. HammittAffiliated withCenter for Risk Analysis, Harvard School of Public Health
  • , John D. GrahamAffiliated withCenter for Risk Analysis, Harvard School of Public Health

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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 valuation VSL WTP sensitivity to scope risk communication risk ladder