April 11, 05

Vol. 20 , No. 11   


View Entire Issue (Vol. 20 , No. 11)


Measuring the Value of a Statistical Life: Problems and Pitfalls
ORLEY ASHENFELTER '64
TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2005

Orley Ashenfelter is Joseph Douglas Green 1895 Professor of Economics at Princeton University. Ashenfelter graduated from CMC in 1964, and completed his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1970. He has since been on the faculty at Princeton, and has held various visiting positions and fellowships. He edited the American Economic Review from 1985 until 2001, and was co-editor until 2002. He co-edited the Handbooks in Labor Economics series, and currently edits the American Law and Economics Review, in addition to holding other editorial positions. He has been the recipient of many awards, including the IZA Prize in Labor Economics in 2003. He recently became a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This learned society has included among its ranks Adam Smith (co-founder), Charles Darwin, and many others of note.

Ashenfelter's research, contained in countless journal articles, spans an array of topics, primarily, but not exclusively, in labor economics. His early work led to the development of rigorous methods for the quantitative evaluation of social programs. Among methods he has developed is the use of "natural" experiments to infer causality, such as using twins to control for genetic factors that may confound the estimation of the effect of schooling. Some of his recent work has focused on auction markets, such as those for wine and art. His upcoming talk at the Athenaeum will focus on the "problems and pitfalls" of "measuring the value of a statistical life." In this work he uses mandated speed limits to infer something about the value of life.

The department of economics annual presentation of awards will immediately precede Professor Ashenfelter's lecture.