EA Survey 2018 Series: Community Demographics & Characteristics

EA Sur­vey 2018 Series: Com­mu­nity De­mo­graph­ics & Characteristics

Sum­mary

The EA sur­vey pro­vides an an­nual snap­shot of the EA com­mu­nity. Although it does not sam­ple ran­domly from all effec­tive al­tru­ists, it does provide an im­por­tant glimpse at de­mo­graphic at­tributes among those who have taken the sur­vey. From these re­spon­dents, we ob­serve that the ma­jor­ity of effec­tive al­tru­ists look de­mo­graph­i­cally much like those in past years. After clean­ing the data and limit­ing the data set to those who de­clared that they self-iden­ti­fied as effec­tive al­tru­ists, we sam­pled a to­tal of 2,607 valid re­spon­dents for this re­port. In to­tal, we sur­veyed 3,537 peo­ple. More peo­ple took the effec­tive al­tru­ist sur­vey than ever be­fore, and this ad­di­tional data en­ables us to look at the de­mo­graph­ics of the effec­tive al­tru­ism move­ment in more depth. In this re­port, we also aim to ex­plore the char­ac­ter­is­tics and ten­den­cies of EAs, in­clud­ing diets, poli­ti­cal be­liefs, ca­reers, and re­la­tion­ships.

Insights

Age

The ma­jor­ity of the re­spon­dents that took the sur­vey are peo­ple aged 20-29, at 50.13% of the re­spon­dents. The ages of the re­spon­dents cluster in the cat­e­gories of 20-29 and 30-39, with a long tail of older re­spon­dents. The youngest re­spon­dent that gave their age was aged 14 and the old­est was 81. The mean age of the re­spon­dents sam­pled was 31, which is slightly older than last year’s mean age of 29. In 2017, the me­dian age was 27, while this year the me­dian age was 28. The in­crease in age is likely driven by sur­vey re­spon­dents who are already in the effec­tive al­tru­ism move­ment ag­ing, rather than older peo­ple join­ing effec­tive al­tru­ism.

Gen­der

The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who took the sur­vey re­ported be­ing male (67%), while 29% of re­spon­dents re­ported that they were fe­male, and ap­prox­i­mately 4% de­scribed them­selves as other or de­clined to self-iden­tify. This is closely al­igned with the 2017 sur­vey, which had the fol­low­ing gen­der break­down: “70.1% iden­ti­fied as male, 26.01% iden­ti­fied as fe­male, 1.9% re­spon­dents iden­ti­fied as “other”, and an­other 21 re­spon­dents preferred not to an­swer.”

Education

Effec­tive al­tru­ists re­port be­ing highly ed­u­cated, with roughly 83% hav­ing a post high school de­gree. The ma­jor­ity of re­spon­dents hold a bach­e­lor’s de­gree (38%), fol­lowed by mas­ter’s de­grees (27%), then doc­toral de­grees (13%).

The fol­low­ing chart shows the num­bers of re­spon­dents within each ed­u­ca­tion level break­out.

Sub­ject of Study

The ma­jor­ity of the effec­tive al­tru­ists sur­veyed re­ported be­ing highly ed­u­cated at a rate higher than that of the United States. The sub­jects that EAs have cho­sen to fo­cus on vary. In or­der of de­scend­ing pop­u­lar­ity, the most cho­sen sub­jects of study were: com­puter sci­ence, math, and philos­o­phy. A ma­jor­ity of effec­tive al­tru­ists re­ported study­ing sub­jects con­sid­ered to be STEM. This ques­tion was a multi-se­lect, so re­spon­dents had the op­por­tu­nity to se­lect mul­ti­ple differ­ent cat­e­gories of stud­ies.

Careers

Most effec­tive al­tru­ists are em­ployed full-time (43%), fol­lowed by peo­ple who are full-time stu­dents (27%). Of the effec­tive al­tru­ists who took the sur­vey and an­swered the em­ploy­ment ques­tion, very few (5%) re­ported that they are un­em­ployed and look­ing for work. This ques­tion was asked as a multi se­lect, so these were not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.

Field of Employment

The fields that effec­tive al­tru­ists are em­ployed in are wide-rang­ing. Most peo­ple se­lected the “Other (please spec­ify)” op­tion (14%). The top three ca­reer paths that peo­ple are cur­rently fol­low­ing in­clude: tech, ed­u­ca­tion, and non­prof­its. While this year we worked to be more in­clu­sive of differ­ent fields of work for re­spon­dents to se­lect, it’s clear we can im­prove by adding more op­tions in the next sur­vey.

Location

Country

The ma­jor­ity of re­spon­dents re­ported be­ing lo­cated in the United States (36%), fol­lowed by the UK (16%), Ger­many (7%), and Aus­tralia (6%). In to­tal, there were re­sponses from 74 differ­ent na­tions and 21 na­tions had 10 or more re­sponses.

Cities

The ques­tion in the 2018 sur­vey ask­ing re­spon­dents where they live was de­vel­oped from the list of the top 30 cities re­spon­dents most re­ported liv­ing in the 2017 sur­vey. There was also the op­por­tu­nity for re­spon­dents put in their own city/​town within the an­swer op­tion of “Other (please spec­ify)”. The an­swers to the city/​town ques­tion showed a re­mark­able di­ver­sity of lo­ca­tion across the globe. Cities not listed on the sur­vey as op­tions were se­lected by 42% of re­spon­dents. The most com­monly re­ported lo­ca­tion was the San Fran­cisco Bay Area (with 9% of re­spon­dents) fol­lowed by Lon­don (7%) and NYC (4%).

SF Bay Area

234

Seattle

38

Canberra

22

Osnabrück

8

London

178

Cam­bridge (UK)

35

Philadelphia

22

Vienna

8

New York City

96

Los Angeles

31

Oslo

16

Baltimore

7

Bos­ton /​ Cam­bridge (USA)

67

Chicago

30

Prague

16

Bristol

6

Berlin

59

Toronto

28

Madison

14

Other (please spec­ify)

1092

Melbourne

59

Vancouver

26

Munich

13

Oxford

56

Zurich

26

Montreal

11

Wash­ing­ton, DC

45

Stockholm

25

Trondheim

10

City Distribution

The fol­low­ing chart shows the num­ber of re­spon­dents within each city. “Other (please spec­ify)” is not bro­ken out within this chart.

Race/​Eth­nic­ity

Of the re­spon­dents who an­swered the eth­nic­ity ques­tion (which al­lowed for mul­ti­ple se­lec­tion), the ma­jor­ity of re­sponses were from peo­ple who self-iden­ti­fied as “white” (78%). While fewer re­spon­dents se­lected white than last year (in 2017, 89% of re­spon­dents iden­ti­fied as white), there wasn’t any marked in­crease in other eth­nic­i­ties rep­re­sented due to the large per­centage of peo­ple who preferred not to say or opted out of the ques­tion.

Ethnicity

White

78.29%

Asian

7.33%

Hispanic

2.84%

Black

0.84%

Na­tive American

0.35%

Pa­cific Islander

0.31%

Reli­gious Affiliation

Roughly the same pro­por­tion of peo­ple iden­ti­fied as “athe­ist, ag­nos­tic, or non-re­li­gious” this year (80%) com­pared to 2017 (80%). Slightly more peo­ple iden­ti­fied as Bud­dhist this year (3.34%) com­pared to last year’s 1.9%, but over­all the re­li­gious af­fili­a­tions of effec­tive al­tru­ists who took the sur­vey are fairly sta­ble.

Religion

Count

Athe­ist, ag­nos­tic, or non-religious

1883

Christian

209

Other

88

Buddhist

79

Pre­fer Not to Answer

54

Jewish

41

Muslim

7

Hindu

4

Diet

Diets of effec­tive al­tru­ists vary, as is ev­i­denced by the chart be­low. Those who eat meat and those that ab­stain from eat­ing meat are pre­sent in roughly equal amounts. Com­pared to tra­di­tional Amer­i­can diets, effec­tive al­tru­ists over-in­dex on be­ing veg­e­tar­ian/​ve­gan by 10x. 39% of the effec­tive al­tru­ism pop­u­la­tion re­ported be­ing ve­gan or veg­e­tar­ian. The dis­tri­bu­tion of re­sponses re­gard­ing dietary de­ci­sions varies ac­cord­ing to gen­der, with 18% of male re­spon­dents re­port­ing they eat meat (and not re­port­ing an at­tempt to re­duce their meat con­sump­tion), com­pared with 7% of fe­male re­spon­dents. More women re­ported be­ing ve­gan and pesc­etar­ian than men. Men and women re­ported be­ing “re­duc­etar­ian” in roughly equal amounts (~29%).

As diets are a per­sonal and com­plex part of our lives, it was clear from the “Other (please spec­ify)” re­sponses that there is an even wider va­ri­ety of diets that were not in­cluded in our list in 2018. This may war­rant an ex­pan­sion of choices in fu­ture years, such as “lacto-veg­e­tar­ian.”

Poli­ti­cal Beliefs

Our poli­ti­cal be­liefs ques­tion was some­what limited, as it did not cap­ture the prob­a­ble vari­a­tion of re­spon­dents poli­ti­cal be­liefs with re­spect to ge­og­ra­phy. The ma­jor­ity of re­spon­dents (61%) re­ported iden­ti­fy­ing with the “left” poli­ti­cally. In fu­ture re­ports, we may dive fur­ther into what these poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tions look like when viewed through the lens of ge­og­ra­phy.

Re­la­tion­ship Sta­tus

In ex­plor­ing the re­la­tion­ship sta­tuses of effec­tive al­tru­ists, a sur­vey de­sign over­sight may have skewed the data. Our ques­tion was flawed in that it did not al­low for peo­ple who were both “polyamorous” as well as “mar­ried” to se­lect the ap­pro­pri­ate sta­tus. We also did not in­clude an “Other (please spec­ify)” op­tion as we did in other ques­tions for peo­ple to share what they felt was rele­vant to their lives. In an­a­lyz­ing this ques­tion, we can con­sider it to be more of a gen­eral overview of how peo­ple felt that their re­la­tion­ships were best rep­re­sented within in the con­fines of the offered choice set. Over­all, roughly half (51%) of effec­tive al­tru­ists re­ported be­ing in some form of re­la­tion­ship and 36% of EAs re­ported that they were sin­gle at the time of this sur­vey.

Recap

Over­all, the de­mo­graphic makeup of the effec­tive al­tru­ism move­ment has not sig­nifi­cantly shifted in the last year of sam­pling. Effec­tive al­tru­ists are typ­i­cally white males in their mid 20’s ac­cord­ing to this sur­vey. As our sam­pling in­stru­ment is bi­ased to­wards re­spon­dents with ac­cess to the in­ter­net and who are sub­scribers to me­dia out­lets as­so­ci­ated with effec­tive al­tru­ism, the ac­tual dis­tri­bu­tion of de­mo­graph­ics is likely differ­ent than the one we shared above. Still, it is crit­i­cal to uti­lize the tools that we have ac­cess to in or­der to as­sess even a rough snap­shot of the at­tributes and health of a com­mu­nity.

While this data on its own is more de­scrip­tive, it helps to set the stage when it comes to sub­jects such as cause prefer­ence or dona­tion data. By bet­ter un­der­stand­ing de­mo­graphic di­ver­sity and be­hav­ioral trends within the EA com­mu­nity, we can make more in­formed as­sess­ments of why cause prefer­ences may shift over time, or why de­gree of en­gage­ment with differ­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions may change within the EA com­mu­nity.

Cred­its

This post was writ­ten by Lau­ren Whet­stone.

A spe­cial thanks to Peter Hur­ford and David Moss for con­tribut­ing anal­y­sis. Thanks to Tee Bar­nett, So­phie Win­ter, and Han­nah Wilbourne for edit­ing.

We would also like to ex­press our ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the Cen­tre for Effec­tive Altru­ism, Scott Alexan­der of Slate Star Codex, 80,000 Hours, EA Lon­don, and An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors for their as­sis­tance in dis­tribut­ing the sur­vey. Thanks also to ev­ery­one who took and shared the sur­vey.

The an­nual EA Sur­vey is a pro­ject of Re­think Char­ity with anal­y­sis and com­men­tary from re­searchers at Re­think Pri­ori­ties.

Sup­port­ing Documents

Other Ar­ti­cles in the 2018 EA Sur­vey Series

Fu­ture ar­ti­cles we write about the 2018 Sur­vey will be added here.

I—Com­mu­nity De­mo­graph­ics & Characteristics

II—Distri­bu­tion & Anal­y­sis Methodology

III—EA Sur­vey Series 2018 : How do peo­ple get in­volved in EA?

IV—Sub­scribers and Identifiers

Prior EA Sur­veys con­ducted by Re­think Char­ity

Raw Data

Anonymized raw data for the en­tire 2018 EA Sur­vey can be found here.