To estimate the value of a statistical life, economists can exploit the difference in pay between two jobs and determine how much of that difference stems from the difference in the risk of injury or death.
In a contingent valuation estimation of the value of a statistical life, the economist surveys a number of people and asks each person the amount of money that he would require to accept a marginally higher chance of dying in the near future.
META-ANALYSIS METHOD Enough studies have been done that a number of meta-analyses have been performed on the existing studies in order to find some "representative" value of a statistical life. Meta-analyses can vary wildly in sophistication; the basic difference between a meta-analysis and a simple averaging of a range of studies is that the meta-analysis attempts to control or adjust for the exogenous factors that could potentially affect the estimated VSL.
Scholars have spent many years researching and arguing about the correct approach to determining the value of a statistical life, and the field
Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown University professor and the co-author of a book critical of the use of VSL, claims that the difficulty in estimating such an amorphous entity as the value of a statistical life leaves policymakers in the position of being easily manipulated by the wonks who attempt to estimate VSLs in the first place.