Using a random sample of individuals in rural Bangladesh, this paper investigates people's ethical preferences regarding relative values of lives when it comes to saving lives of individuals of different ages. By assuming that an individual has preferences concerning different states of the world, and that these preferences can be described by an individual social welfare function, the individuals' preferences for life-saving programs are elicited using a pair-wise choice experiment involving different life-saving programs.
In the analyses, we calculate the social marginal rates of substitution between saved lives of people of different ages. We also test whether people have preferences for saving more life-years rather than only saving lives. In particular, we test and compare the two hypotheses that only lives matter and that only life-years matter. The results indicate that the value of a saved life decreases rapidly with age and that people have strong preferences for saving life-years rather than lives per se. Overall, the results clearly show the importance of the number of life-years saved in the valuation of life. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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