Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1485–1522 | Cite as

The cost of uncertain life span

  • Ryan D. Edwards
Original Paper


Much uncertainty surrounds the length of human life. The standard deviation in adult life span is about 15 years in the USA, and theory and evidence suggest that it is costly. I calibrate a utility-theoretic model that shows that 1 year in standard deviation is worth about half a life year. Differences in variance exacerbate health inequalities between and among rich and poor countries. Accounting for the cost of life-span variance appears to amplify recently discovered patterns of convergence in world average human well-being because the component of variance due to infant mortality has exhibited even more convergence than life expectancy.


Health inequality Population health Convergence 

JEL Classification

I10 J17 O11 



I thank Deborah Balk, Neil Bennett, David Canning, Victor Fuchs, Ronald Lee, Shripad Tuljapurkar, David Weil, seminar participants at Queens College, CUNY, and at the Harvard Initiative for Global Health, and several anonymous referees for helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queens CollegeCity University of New YorkFlushingUSA

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