Lots of people ask why EA isn’t very focused on education (or any number of other causes).
Education is one of 3 parts of Human Development Index, the other being Income and life expectancy. The fundamental and FATAL problem of the EA community is not giving education equal importance as the other parts of the HDI.
Here I am talking about INTRINSIC value, as an end in itself like life expectancy.
The EA community and Give Well have never published moral weights for education vs money or life expectancy. They have chosen to disregard UNDP and HDI. I wonder is the UNDP part of the outgroup?
Try reading the following
“Lots of people ask why EA isn’t very focused on education (or any number of other causes).”
“Lots of people ask why EA isn’t very focused on life expectancy (or any number of other causes).”
“Lots of people ask why EA isn’t very focused on income (or any number of other causes).”
All of the above sound crazy to me, all of them are big buckets and issues. The lack of acknowledgement of the importance of education is the issue.
Whether there are “smart buys” in education is a secondary issue. The research might find cost effective charities working in any combination of income/life expectancy/education or exclusively in one of them.
The starting point has to be acknowledging the importance of education.
Do you know of any studies showing that people in low-income countries regard their own education as a major source of intrinsic value, apart from its effects on other life outcomes?
I ask because I think most people in the developed world value education primarily because it will help them “succeed in life” (or “get a good job”, “move up in the world”, etc.). If you gave people in the U.S. a choice between e.g. the experience of being in school for 3 extra years, or an extra $5,000/year in salary, I’d expect almost everyone to choose a higher salary. And I would expect sentiments to be similar in the developing world, if not stronger.
I don’t have access to data on this, and am generalizing from how I’ve seen people behave in my own life and in various nonfiction books and articles I’ve read. I’d be really curious to see data, and you seem like you might be familiar with relevant literature.
Education is one of many things you can do with your time; I don’t see why we’d necessarily privilege it over “spending time with your family”, “playing with your friends”, or other ways to spend time — apart from its effects on economic welfare, health, and so on.
There are a limited number of experimental studies providing direct evidence that education interventions improve the outcomes that we consider most important, such as earnings, health, and rates of marriage and fertility among teenage girls.
They certainly seem to differ from UNDP if UNDP considers education an intrinsic good, absent other effects on welfare. But I’m willing to bite the bullet and ask whether UNDP is actually right. Is education for its own sake important enough to justify pursuing interventions that provide more education, but less health or money, than other interventions?
I have written a lot about education on this forum. See this old post of mine
Education is one of many things you can do with your time
I am talking about basic education here (12 years). A child going to school is not losing family time, they are learning and playing with their friends at school. If there are not at school they might be looking after siblings, grazing the animals, or maybe doing nothing.
Givewell’s research on education is of really poor quality. Partly that is because they assume education has no intrinsic value and hence put little effort into it. Partly it’s hard to disentangle effects of education because those effects last a lifetime, and can easily be mis-attributed to income, government policy, soap operas, economic policy etc...
regard their own education as a major source of intrinsic value, apart from its effects on other life outcomes?
The question of intrinsic and extrinsic value is not very interesting. We can ask why does health have intrinsic value? Income it is clear has no intrinsic value. UNDP considers Income, education, health to be equally important, because they allow us to leads lives that we want to live i.e. enhance human capability. See Capability Approach
UNDP considers education an intrinsic good, absent other effects on welfare. But I’m willing to bite the bullet and ask whether UNDP is actually right.
Given the importance of HDI, the research backing HDI (kerala model), the people who created it (Mahbub ul Haq, Amartya Sen +others). The starting point for any moral weights has to be HDI, we can differ from it but need really solid explanation for substantial deviations from HDI. The burden of proof is on the EA community and especially Give Well.
After 30 years of HDI, the major changes are Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), Gender Development Index (GDI), Gender Inequality Index (GII), MultidimensionalPoverty Index (MPI)
In all of those indexes education is given equal importance to health and income. The persistence of education for 30 years in HDI and the newer indexes points to the importance of education.
Moral Weights of Education, Income, Health according to UNDP HDI
18 years of education = 1 life (85 years)
9 people doubling of income per capita for their entire lives = 1 life
765 years of additional income = 1 life
Give Well weights are wildly off from this.