How much does it cost to save the life of a newborn?

On December 16, 2008, in economics, research, by Karen Grepin

Some of my classmates, as well as their co-authors, have recently released a great NBER working paper that gets at a really important question in health economics: how much do we spend to improve health? Specifically, how much is a life worth?

The authors observe the following phenomenon, babies born just below the 1500 g “low birth weight” threshold actually have lower mortality than children born just above the threshold. This discontinuity, they argue, is due to the fact that children born just below the threshold get extra medical services than those who are born just above the threshold. At this threshold, medical care does appear to be effective. They then calculate the additional costs of treating these children to the additional gains in terms of reduce mortality to estimate that saving a life of a newborn is $550,000 in 2006 dollars in the US.

This is really, really great work so I thought it was worth sharing their findings.

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