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What Affects the Quality of Economic Analysis for Life-Saving Investments?


  • The views expressed in this article reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions with which they are affiliated.

*Address correspondence to Robert W. Hahn, AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, 1150 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; tel: 202-862-5909; fax: 202-862-7169;


Economic analysis of life-saving investments in both the public and private sectors has the potential to dramatically improve longevity and the quality of life, but only if the analyses on which decisions are based are done well. In this article, we analyze a data set that provides information on the content and quality of journal articles that measure the cost-effectiveness of life-saving investments. Our study is the first to provide a detailed multivariate analysis of factors affecting objective measures of quality. We also explore whether a series of recommendations by an expert panel convened by the U.S. Public Health Service affect the way analyses of specific life-saving investments are done. Our results suggest that four factors are positively correlated with an index we construct to measure analytical quality: (1) having at least one author affiliated with a university, (2) publication in a journal that has experience in publishing these analyses, (3) if the life-saving investment is located in the United States, and (4) if the analysis considers a measure of social costs or benefits. Somewhat surprisingly, a study's funding source and whether it is affiliated with industry are not significantly correlated with the quality index. Finally, neither time nor the panel guidelines had an impact on the index.