Consumer Agency Doubles Values for Reducing Children’s Risks


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently voted to increase the value placed on reducing mortality risks to children, doubling the value placed on reducing risks to adults. CPSC is responsible for reducing the risk of injuries and deaths associated with consumer products by issuing standards or banning products to protect the public. It accompanies its major regulations with a benefit-cost analysis that weighs the costs of the requirements against the benefits. Given CPSC’s mission, it is not surprising that value of reducing mortality risks is an important component of these assessments.

The value of changes in mortality risks is typically referred to as the value per statistical life (VSL). VSL is estimated based on studies of individuals’ willingness to exchange their own money for a small change in their own risk of dying within a defined time period; it is not the value of saving someone’s life. As do many other Federal agencies, CPSC historically used a population-average VSL in its assessments, without adjusting for the age of those affected.

CPSC describes its decision to increase the value for children as based on a criteria-driven review of the literature conducted by CHDS faculty Lisa Robinson and James Hammitt and co-authors. The results of that review were ultimately published in the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis article, “Valuing Children’s Fatality Risk Reductions.” The review found that few studies compare the value of reducing risks to children to the value for adults, and that the results vary. However, the findings suggest that the value of reducing risks to children is likely larger than the value of reducing risks to adults. CPSC notes that its decision is also based on normative concerns related to its mission; society tends to prioritize the safety of children and invests significantly in their protection.

In addition to the recommendations related to valuing risks to children, CPSC revised the basis for its adult VSL. It now relies on estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Guidelines for Regulatory Impact Analysis. The HHS VSL estimates in turn rely on Robinson and Hammitt’s review, “Valuing Reductions in Fatal Illness Risks: Implications of Recent Research.”

Learn more: Consumer Product Safety Commission: Final Guidance for Estimating Value per Statistical Life
Learn more: Resource Pack: Valuing Health and Longevity in BCA

Related news: Valuing Mortality Risk: Per Life, Life Year, or QALY?
Related news: High Values to Reduce Children’s Risks