Freakonomics 5 (The price of safety)

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The biggest gender gap that dare not speak its name

Gender gaps in injuries and fatalities go beyond those industries demanding physical.strength.

accident compensation claims by gender

There are noticeable differences in the occupational choices of single people, parents, and single parents. Women choose safer jobs than men; single moms or dads are most averse to fatal risk because they have the most to lose. About one quarter of occupational differences between men and women can be attributed to the risks of injury and death.

All but 3 of the fatal workplace accidents in New Zealand in 2015 were men.

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Source: Accident Compensation Corporation,  Statistics New Zealand.

This gender gap in the risk of injury and death can lead to a significant gender wage gap because of the wage premium associated with these risks and in particular the risk of death as Viscusi explained.

The bottom line is that market forces have a powerful influence on job safety. The $120 billion in annual wage premiums referred to earlier is in addition to the value of workers’ compensation. Workers on moderately risky blue-collar jobs, whose annual risk of getting killed is 1 in 10,000, earn a premium of $300 to $500 per year.

The imputed compensation per “statistical death” (10,000 times $300 to $500) is therefore $3 million to $5 million. Even workers who are not strongly averse to risk and who have voluntarily chosen extremely risky jobs, such as coal miners and firemen, receive compensation on the order of $600,000 per statistical death…

Other evidence that the safety market works comes from the decrease in the riskiness of jobs throughout the century. One would predict that as workers become wealthier they will be less desperate to earn money and will therefore demand more safety.

A German study was able to reduce a raw gender wage gap of 20% to 1% after accounting for differences between gender in the risk of injury and death in addition to the usual factors. This 2007 study found that they were the 2nd study ever to make this adjustment.

The value of a statistical life through time in the USA

Thomas Schelling’s crucial contribution in 1968 at RAND was the notion of statistical lives—mortality risks—in  contrast to valuing the lives of specific, identified individuals. His insight was that economists could evade the moral thicket of valuing life and instead focus on people’s willingness to trade-off money for small reductions in the risks they face.