The Economic Perspective: “The Value of Lives Saved”

Mary: This is Mary Walden with economist MW welcoming you to the economic perspective. Today’s program looks at the value of lives saved.  Mike, the economic cost of closing a large part of the economy in order to contain and control the coronavirus is growing day by day.  Businesses are losing revenues and workers are seeing their incomes decline.   Many people are now asking, is it worth it?  Can economists provide an answer?


Mike:  Summary Answer

  • Certainly, difficult time, and understandable reaction
  • Economists can try to help by estimating a value of the benefits of the restrictions
  • Major benefit is lives saved – due to fewer infections and not overwhelming the health care system
  • How put a monetary value on a life?  One approach is saved earnings
  • Researchers at the University of Chicago, using estimates of lives saved by the restrictions, calculate restrictions have saved $8 trillion in earnings
  • I’m MW


Mary:  And I’m Mary Walden for the Economic Perspective, an NC State Extension program from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.