Article

Fair Innings? The Utilitarian and Prioritarian Value of Risk Reduction over a Whole Lifetime

Matthew Adler, Maddalena Ferranna, James K. Hammitt, and Nicolas Treich

Abstract

The social value of risk reduction (SVRR) is the marginal social value of reducing an individual’s fatality risk, as measured by some social welfare function (SWF). This Article investigates SVRR, using a lifetime utility model in which individuals are differentiated by age, lifetime income profile, and lifetime risk profile. We consider both the utilitarian SWF and a “prioritarian” SWF, which applies a strictly increasing and strictly concave transformation to individual utility. We show that the prioritarian SVRR provides a rigorous basis in economic theory for the “fair innings” concept, proposed in the public health literature: as between an older individual and a similarly situated younger individual (one with the same income and risk profile), a risk reduction for the younger individual is accorded greater social weight even if the gains to expected lifetime utility are equal. The comparative statics of prioritarian and utilitarian SVRRs with respect to age, and to (past, present, and future) income and baseline survival probability, are significantly different from the conventional value per statistical life (VSL). Our empirical simulation based upon the U.S. population survival curve and income distribution shows that prioritarian SVRRs with a moderate degree of concavity in the transformation function conform to widely held views regarding lifesaving policies: the young should take priority but income should make no difference.

Keywords

Social welfare function (SWF); benefit-cost analysis (BCA); value of statistical life (VSL), fair; innings; social value of risk reduction (SVRR); utilitarian, prioritarian,; isk regulation;

Replaces

Matthew Adler, Maddalena Ferranna, James K. Hammitt, and Nicolas Treich, Fair Innings? The Utilitarian and Prioritarian Value of Risk Reduction over a Whole Lifetime, TSE Working Paper, n. 19-1054, November 2019.

Reference

Matthew Adler, Maddalena Ferranna, James K. Hammitt, and Nicolas Treich, Fair Innings? The Utilitarian and Prioritarian Value of Risk Reduction over a Whole Lifetime, Journal of Health Economics, vol. 75, n. 102412, January 2021.

Published in

Journal of Health Economics, vol. 75, n. 102412, January 2021