I want to pushback on the idea that the average individual making more than the local median household, and living in one of the richest societies on the planet, cannot afford to be generous.
I don’t think that’s a good or charitable reading of what Ray’s saying. I think the core idea is that EAs have often prioritized giving 10% and living frugally *too* heavily, to the point where it interferes with their long-term potential. This seems like a case where the law of equal and opposite advice is coming into play—while it’s true that most people in wealthy countries could easily afford to donate more, enthusiastic new EAs (probably especially younger ones) are more likely to try to be more generous than they can actually afford, so it’s probably good to tell them to tone it down.
For example, I’ve heard from some of the early Australian EAs that when EA was just starting out they all lived illegally in a hallway and ate out of the garbage. That was probably not good for their productivity or their physical or mental health. Similarly, when I first started doing direct work I was hesitant to even spend money on food, which made me worse off in a lot of ways. Living with a constant scarcity mindset is stressful, which leaves people with less brain space to think critically, be good at their job, and figure out what needs to be done.
Bottom line, obviously Ray’s advice does not apply equally to everyone, but if you’re living in an expensive city and making $10k (like I was last year), it seems quite bad to also feel pressured to donate 10% (which I did).
I feel like you are generalizing from a small sample of very dedicated EAs. In my opinion the data does not support ‘EAs have often prioritized giving 10% and living frugally *too* heavily’. See data here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/S2ypk8fsHFrQopvyo/ea-survey-2017-series-donation-data.
The median donation percentage among EAs who reported 10K+ income was only 4.28%. The following example you give is not typical ‘For example, I’ve heard from some of the early Australian EAs that when EA was just starting out they all lived illegally in a hallway and ate out of the garbage. That was probably not good for their productivity or their physical or mental health.’.
My posts invovled a specific salary number for NYC. And the claim you quote gives a specific condition ‘make at least as much as median local household income’. Conversely Ray’s post has no numbers in it at all. You will also notice in the concrete budget I posted I included 200 dollars/week in consumption. My stated advice does not support living off garbage.
I can support more nuanced advice that tells young or very dedicated EAs not to harm themselves in order to donate 10%. But I think most EAs should actually donate more. So I am pretty skeptical of advice that suggests donating less unless it comes with appropriate concrete caveats. And I really do think the caveats need to be concrete. Its very easy to implicitly treat luxuries as nescessary. Several people I talked to seemed skeptical it was possible to find rent in NYC for 1K (I was able to quickly point out places).