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Policy Priorities and the Value of Life
There has been considerable focus in academic and government studies on the variety of methods that federal agencies use to justify the economic value of their programs. Because many government programs have benefits measured in terms of the impact on human life, the differences in valuation often boil down to a question of how different agencies assign a value to human life. But, what may appear on the surface to be only technical differences in valuation methodology may actually be used to drive different policy agendas, and this can lead to important inconsistencies in government spending priorities. This paper examines this issue broadly across government programs, and it also focuses particularly on two healthcare programs within the Department of Health and Human Services that illustrate both the differences in approach to program evaluation and the disparities in policy priorities that follow.
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