How much is a human life worth? : Planet Money Is it worth it to shut down the economy to save lives? How do you know when to reopen it? Should we let people die to save the economy? Economists say each human life is worth about $10 million dollars. How did they get that number? | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.
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Lives Vs. The Economy

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Lives Vs. The Economy

Lives Vs. The Economy

Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty Images
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 7: Grocery store workers and others stage a protest rally outside the Whole Foods Market to demand personal protective equipment, added benefits, and hazard pay, during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty Images

A question we've been hearing lately: "Is it worth it to shut down the economy to save lives?" Or "Should we let people die to save the economy?" The only way to answer this question is to figure out what a human life is worth ... in dollars. This happens all the time. In fact, U.S. government federal agencies have a very specific answer. They say a human life is worth about $10 million.

Today on the show, how economists came up with that number, why that number needs to exist, and an answer to the question: Is it worth it to restart the economy right now? (No. The answer is No.)

Music: "Finger Lickin," "In Isolation," and "Happy Trip."

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For more shockingly precise answers to other thorny questions, ask your mansplaining uncle. For nuanced insight into the economy, subscribe to our weekly Newsletter.