EA Survey 2019 Series: Geographic Distribution of EAs

Summary

  • 74% of EAs in the sur­vey cur­rently live in the same set of 5 high-in­come English-speak­ing west­ern coun­tries as in 2018.

  • The share of EAs liv­ing out­side of the USA and Europe is slightly larger (4%) than in 2018 and larger among newer EAs than vet­eran EAs.

  • 40% of EAs live in cities with fewer than 10 other fel­low EAs.

  • While Global Poverty is a high pri­or­ity cause area for EAs around the world, EAs in the USA ap­pear to pri­ori­tize Cause Pri­ori­ti­za­tion less than their peers el­se­where and EAs out­side the USA and Europe ap­pear to pri­ori­tize Cli­mate Change more.

  • When pressed to choose only one of the tra­di­tional broad cause ar­eas of EA (Global Poverty, An­i­mal Welfare, Meta, Long Term Fu­ture, Other) the Long Term Fu­ture/​Catas­trophic and Ex­is­ten­tial Risk Re­duc­tion is the most pop­u­lar among EAs in the USA and Europe.

  • EAs liv­ing out­side of the USA and Europe re­ported the largest shares of non-en­gaged or only mildly en­gaged EAs, pos­si­bly stem­ming from their ob­sta­cles to par­ti­ci­pat­ing in “high en­gage­ment ac­tivi­ties”.

This post is part of Re­think Char­ity’s se­ries on the EA Sur­vey 2019, which pro­vides an an­nual snap­shot of the EA com­mu­nity. In this re­port, we ex­plore the ge­o­graphic dis­tri­bu­tion of EAs in the sur­vey. We have already ex­plored de­mo­graph­ics, cause pri­ori­ti­za­tion and ca­reers and skills. In the fu­ture, we will ex­plore how these EAs first heard of and got in­volved in effec­tive al­tru­ism and their dona­tion pat­terns.

Introduction

Effec­tive Altru­ism is a global move­ment. There are lo­cal EA groups in ap­prox­i­mately 45 coun­tries,[1] EA Global and EAGx con­fer­ences have been held in 9 coun­tries across 5 con­ti­nents,and many EAs are keen to build a frame­work for de­vel­op­ing EA in emerg­ing lo­ca­tions. The sur­vey data does not al­low us to re­veal the cit­i­zen­ship or place of birth of EAs, but we can see where they re­ported cur­rently liv­ing when the sur­vey was con­ducted (Septem­ber-Oc­to­ber 2019). The ge­o­graphic dis­tri­bu­tion of EAs is likely due to a com­bi­na­tion of where the move­ment has been best at re­cruit­ing but also where EAs, who are dis­pro­por­tionately a young, white, male ed­u­ca­tional elite, are most likely to have moved to. While EAs in this year’s sur­vey re­ported liv­ing in 60 differ­ent coun­tries,[2] re­spon­dents con­tinue to most of­ten be cur­rently liv­ing in English speak­ing coun­tries, es­pe­cially the USA and UK (see here and here for dis­cus­sions about the dom­i­nance of English in EA).

Global dis­tri­bu­tion of EAs

The coun­tries EAs most com­monly re­port liv­ing in re­mained mostly un­changed from last year. 55% of EAs in the sur­vey live in the USA or UK, 24% in the rest of Europe, 10% in Aus­tralia or New Zealand, and 4% in Canada. The share of EAs liv­ing out­side of the 5 top coun­tries (USA, UK, Ger­many, Aus­tralia, Canada) has in­creased by 4% (from 22% to 26%) com­pared to 2018’s sur­vey sam­ple.

N.B. images can be viewed in full size if opened in a new tab. 1.4% of EAs live in global pop­u­la­tion hubs China and In­dia, which is even more than in the en­tire con­ti­nents of Africa or South Amer­ica (~1% each), but the same per­centage as live in com­par­a­tively smaller Swe­den. Look­ing at the num­ber of EAs liv­ing in a coun­try rel­a­tive to the to­tal pop­u­la­tion of that coun­try gives us some in­di­ca­tion of the sat­u­ra­tion EA has reached there. New Zealand, Nor­way, Aus­tralia, the UK, and Switzer­land make up the top 5 on this mea­sure.

For ease of com­par­i­son we high­light only the top EA coun­tries by ab­solute num­ber of EAs. Although the ab­solute num­ber of EAs per coun­tries is down across the board due to a smaller sam­ple this year, New Zealand clearly stands out due to hav­ing dou­ble the num­ber of EA re­spon­dents re­port­ing liv­ing there com­pared to 2018. The jump in EAs per cap­ita is partly due to New Zealand hav­ing a rel­a­tively small pop­u­la­tion, how­ever, even if there were 25 fewer EAs in New Zealand it would still lead this table, so higher re­cruit­ment might also play a role. Like last year, we see data that sug­gests that the UK has a large num­ber of EAs per cap­ita com­pa­rable to coun­tries with much smaller to­tal pop­u­la­tions.

EAs in each city

The most com­monly re­ported city an EA lived in was the San Fran­cisco Bay Area (with 9% of re­spon­dents) fol­lowed by Lon­don (7%) and New York City (5%), though there was an ex­tremely long tail of smaller cities and Other re­sponses. [3] In the figure be­low it is clear that the num­ber of EAs in the top “ma­jor hubs” is dwar­fed by the num­ber of EAs in “Other” cities which are not named in the figure be­low due to hav­ing fewer than 10 EAs.

In the next figure only the 10 largest hubs are high­lighted for eas­ier com­par­i­son.

We then ex­am­ined the num­ber of EAs in a city rel­a­tive to the pop­u­la­tion of those cities. Look­ing only at those cities with 10 or more res­i­dent EAs, uni­ver­sity cities Oxford and Cam­bridge led the list, fol­lowed by Black­pool pre­sum­ably in part be­cause of the EA ho­tel. We should also note that the San Fran­cisco Bay Area has a large num­ber of EAs (even for the size of the to­tal metropoli­tan area), as does Lon­don.

EA growth over time

For the re­main­der of this re­port we group the coun­try data into the broad ge­o­graph­i­cal cat­e­gories of USA, UK, Other Europe and Rest of the World as these offer more com­pa­rable group sizes. The share of EAs liv­ing in the USA de­clines by years a re­spon­dent has been in EA. Again we should re­mind the reader that the data re­flects where EAs cur­rently live and nei­ther their na­tion­al­ity nor where they lived when they joined EA nec­es­sar­ily. Those who have been in the move­ment the longest are most likely to cur­rently live in the USA and UK, how­ever a ma­jor­ity of the newest EAs live out­side of these two coun­tries.

We also see some ev­i­dence of a plateau or even de­cline in the ab­solute num­ber of EAs liv­ing in the UK and the rest of Europe who joined af­ter 2016.

One rea­son to be more ten­ta­tive about these pos­si­ble shifts is that we only have sur­vey re­sults from those who have re­mained in EA since they joined, and we do see some differ­ences from the re­sults of 2018’s EA sur­vey. For ex­am­ple, far fewer EAs in the 2019 sur­vey re­ported hav­ing joined EA be­tween 2015 − 2017 than did so in the 2018 sur­vey, and this trend ap­pears across coun­tries. This could be a sign that many EAs drop out within 1-3 years of first in­volve­ment, while those who have been en­gaged 5 or more years rarely drop out. Run­ning a few more years of the EA sur­vey may al­low us to find out if this is the case.

EA engagement

The sur­vey in­cluded a ques­tion ask­ing EAs to re­port their level of en­gage­ment in EA on a 5 point scale of No En­gage­ment to High En­gage­ment.[4] EAs liv­ing in the UK had the largest share re­port­ing to be highly en­gaged (31%). Mean­while, EAs liv­ing out­side of the USA and Europe re­ported the largest shares of non-en­gaged or only mildly en­gaged EAs. The self-re­ported en­gage­ment scale offered de­scrip­tive crite­ria for each level, some of which peo­ple liv­ing out­side “core” ge­o­graphic ar­eas may find it harder to do. For ex­am­ple, they might find it harder to at­tend an EAG or work at an EA or­ga­ni­za­tion, even if they are max­i­mally en­gaged oth­er­wise.

It looks like EAs liv­ing in the USA are plu­ral­ities in each en­gage­ment group ex­cept those not en­gaged in EA (where EAs liv­ing out­side of the USA and Europe are the largest group). EAs liv­ing in the USA and UK make up 60% of highly en­gaged EAs.

Of the three on­line groups the EA sur­vey asked about, 43% to 60% of EAs in each re­gion were mem­bers of the EA Face­book page, while fewer than a quar­ter were mem­bers of LessWrong. 24%-38% of EAs in each re­gion were mem­bers of the EA Fo­rum. Lo­cal group mem­ber­ship was es­pe­cially high among EAs liv­ing in Europe. This is not sur­pris­ing given that 50% (88/​176) of groups are in Europe, and con­ti­nen­tal Euro­peans were more of­ten lo­cal group mem­bers in last year’s sur­vey too. Less than half of EAs in each re­gion were GWWC mem­bers. GWWC mem­ber­ship is high­est among EAs liv­ing in the UK (43%) where the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­gan and where EAs tend to be more in­volved in groups in gen­eral.

Careers

The most pop­u­lar ca­reer paths that effec­tive al­tru­ists in the sur­vey plan to fol­low are in earn­ing to give roles (38%) and work­ing at EA or­ga­ni­za­tions (37%). The sur­vey al­lowed re­spon­dents to se­lect mul­ti­ple ca­reer paths they plan to fol­low. Earn­ing to give is even more pop­u­lar among EAs liv­ing in the USA (41%) and less so in the UK, where only 26% of EAs re­ported pur­su­ing this ca­reer path. EAs in the UK in­stead were more likely to se­lect plan­ning to work at an EA or­ga­ni­za­tion (48%). EAs liv­ing el­se­where in Europe were most likely to choose academia (39%). We have already high­lighted el­se­where how the skills most needed by EA are spread ge­o­graph­i­cally.

Look­ing at the data by city cor­re­sponds to many prior as­sump­tions. EAs liv­ing in Oxford and Lon­don are most likely to be on the work­ing at an EA or­ga­ni­za­tion ca­reer track. EAs liv­ing in Wash­ing­ton DC are most likely to be on the work­ing in gov­ern­ment ca­reer track. EAs in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area ap­pear equally split (not­ing again that EAs could se­lect mul­ti­ple op­tions) be­tween pur­su­ing ca­reer paths in earn­ing to give and work­ing at an EA or­ga­ni­za­tion.

296 (15%) EAs in the sur­vey cur­rently or pre­vi­ously worked at an EA or­ga­ni­za­tion. This share is even higher among EAs liv­ing in the UK (24%) and USA (17%), which is un­sur­pris­ing given how many EA or­ga­ni­za­tions are based there. Mean­while, only 7% of EAs liv­ing out­side of Europe or the USA cur­rently work or pre­vi­ously worked at an EA or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Poli­ti­cal affiliation

We have shown el­se­where that most effec­tive al­tru­ists are on the Left or Cen­ter Left, and there is in­ter­est in how Effec­tive Altru­ists can be wel­com­ing to con­ser­va­tives, speci­fi­cally Repub­li­cans. Depend­ing on the coun­try, the mean­ing of Left and Right can vary, or not even be a salient poli­ti­cal di­men­sion. We should once again high­light that our data only shows where an EA lives and so an EA re­port­ing both liv­ing in the USA and be­ing on the Right-hand side of the poli­ti­cal spec­trum does not mean they are a reg­istered Repub­li­can for ex­am­ple. Over 75% of EAs in all ma­jor re­gions re­ported be­ing on the Left or Cen­ter Left. 3% of EAs liv­ing in the USA re­ported be­ing af­fili­ated with the Right or Cen­ter Right. We can also see that the share of EAs af­fili­ated with Liber­tar­i­anism is high­est among EAs liv­ing in the USA.

Gender

Like the EA sur­vey as a whole, there are more male than fe­male EAs across each re­gion and ma­jor EA metropoli­tan hub.[5]

Veg*n status

Those who eat meat and those that ab­stain from eat­ing meat are pre­sent in roughly equal amounts over­all in the sur­vey. 46% claim to be ve­gan or veg­e­tar­ian, while 48% con­sume meat of some form. 58% of EAs liv­ing in the USA eat meat of some form, though 35% are try­ing to re­duce meat con­sump­tion and 6% are pescatar­ian. Rates of veg*nism are high­est among EAs who live in Europe (59% in the UK and 60% el­se­where in Europe). EAs liv­ing out­side of Europe and the USA more closely re­sem­ble EAs in the USA in terms of dietary prefer­ences.

Oxford and Lon­don have the high­est per­centage of veg*nism among the ma­jor EA metropoli­tan hubs and Bos­ton and Wash­ing­ton DC had the high­est per­centage of EAs who don’t re­port re­duc­ing or re­strict­ing their meat con­sump­tion in any way.

Cause prioritization

The top five causes, as ranked by EAs in the sur­vey, are Global Poverty, Cause Pri­ori­ti­za­tion, AI Risk, Cli­mate Change, and Biose­cu­rity in that or­der. We can clearly see in the table and figure be­low of the mean rat­ings of cause ar­eas (rang­ing from (1) this cause should not re­ceive any re­sources to (5) this cause should be the top pri­or­ity)[6] that EAs liv­ing out­side of the USA ap­pear to give more pri­or­ity to Cause Pri­ori­ti­za­tion than EAs in the USA. EAs liv­ing out­side of the USA and Europe ap­pear to favour Global Poverty and Cli­mate Change more than those liv­ing in these re­gions. This may be re­lated to newer EAs tend­ing to live out­side of these re­gions and also tend­ing to pri­ori­tize differ­ent causes than vet­eran EAs, al­though it is un­clear how strong this as­so­ci­a­tion is.

The top two causes were Global Poverty and Cli­mate Change among EAs liv­ing in New York City, Bos­ton, and Syd­ney. Global Poverty and Cause Pri­ori­ti­za­tion were the most pop­u­lar cause ar­eas among EAs in Lon­don and Wash­ing­ton, DC (the lat­ter also pri­ori­tiz­ing Biose­cu­rity very highly). EAs in the San Fran­cisco bay area tended to pri­ori­tize AI Risk and Global Poverty the most, while EAs in Oxford pri­ori­tized Cause Pri­ori­ti­za­tion and AI Risk/​Biose­cu­rity the most.

When pressed to choose only one of the tra­di­tional broad cause ar­eas of EA (Global Poverty, An­i­mal Welfare, Meta, Long Term Fu­ture, Other) the Long Term Fu­ture/​Catas­trophic and Ex­is­ten­tial Risk Re­duc­tion is the most pop­u­lar (41%) among EAs over­all. This is moreso the case among EAs liv­ing in the USA and UK and less so the case for EAs liv­ing out­side of the USA and Europe. Global Poverty was more of­ten the choice among EAs liv­ing out­side of the USA and Europe.

The long term fu­ture is es­pe­cially pop­u­lar among EAs liv­ing in Oxford, not sur­pris­ing given the fo­cus of or­ga­ni­za­tions such as The Fu­ture of Hu­man­ity In­sti­tute and the Global Pri­ori­ties In­sti­tute on longter­mism. 0% of EAs liv­ing in Syd­ney chose An­i­mal Welfare (in the mul­ti­ple-choice cause pri­ori­ti­za­tion ques­tion only 3% of Syd­ney EAs gave An­i­mal Welfare top pri­or­ity but 11% of EAs in Aus­tralia gave An­i­mal Welfare top pri­or­ity).

Credits

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

This es­say was writ­ten by Neil Dul­laghan. Thanks to David Moss, Kim Cud­ding­ton ,Peter Hur­ford and Ja­son Schukraft for com­ments. Thanks also to David Kristoffers­son in the com­ments be­low.

If you like our work, please con­sider sub­scribing to our newslet­ter. You can see all our work to date here.

Other ar­ti­cles in the EA Sur­vey 2019 Series can be found here



  1. There are 45 coun­tries rep­re­sented in the data on https://​​eahub.org/​​groups/​​ and 40 coun­tries rep­re­sented in the Lo­cal EA Group Or­ga­niz­ers Sur­vey 2019 ↩︎

  2. Note that this is down from the 75 coun­tries rep­re­sented in the 2018 sur­vey, which at­tracted a larger num­ber of re­spon­dents over­all. ↩︎

  3. It seemed pos­si­ble that the di­ver­sity of cities that EAs live in might be over-stated though, if many of the smaller cities were es­sen­tially just parts of larger cities already cap­tured in the anal­y­sis (e.g. re­spon­dents might write in ‘Daly City’ which we would count as part of the Bay Area). In 2018, to ex­am­ine this we man­u­ally coded each of cities (other than the ma­jor hubs) as to their prox­im­ity to an­other city. This pro­ce­dure con­firmed that only 45476 cities (9.45%), con­tain­ing 47 EAs (2.1%) were even vaguely close (within ~50km) to other cities in our list, sug­gest­ing that this was not a ma­jor fac­tor. We did not ex­pect the 2019 data to be any differ­ent. ↩︎

  4. (1) No en­gage­ment: I’ve heard of effec­tive al­tru­ism, but do not en­gage with effec­tive al­tru­ism con­tent or ideas at all
    (2) Mild en­gage­ment: I’ve en­gaged with a few ar­ti­cles, videos, pod­casts, dis­cus­sions, events on effec­tive al­tru­ism (e.g. read­ing Do­ing Good Bet­ter or spend­ing ~5 hours on the web­site of 80,000 Hours)
    (3) Moder­ate en­gage­ment: I’ve en­gaged with mul­ti­ple ar­ti­cles, videos, pod­casts, dis­cus­sions, or events on effec­tive al­tru­ism (e.g. sub­scribing to the 80,000 Hours pod­cast or at­tend­ing reg­u­lar events at a lo­cal group). I some­times con­sider the prin­ci­ples of effec­tive al­tru­ism when I make de­ci­sions about my ca­reer or char­i­ta­ble dona­tions.
    (4) Con­sid­er­able en­gage­ment: I’ve en­gaged ex­ten­sively with effec­tive al­tru­ism con­tent (e.g. at­tend­ing an EA Global con­fer­ence, ap­ply­ing for ca­reer coach­ing, or or­ga­niz­ing an EA meetup). I of­ten con­sider the prin­ci­ples of effec­tive al­tru­ism when I make de­ci­sions about my ca­reer or char­i­ta­ble dona­tions.
    (5) High en­gage­ment: I am heav­ily in­volved in the effec­tive al­tru­ism com­mu­nity, per­haps helping to lead an EA group or work­ing at an EA-al­igned or­ga­ni­za­tion. I make heavy use of the prin­ci­ples of effec­tive al­tru­ism when I make de­ci­sions about my ca­reer or char­i­ta­ble dona­tions. ↩︎

  5. Chi-square tests of as­so­ci­a­tion do not find data that would be sur­pris­ing given a null of no as­so­ci­a­tion (re­gions Pear­son chi2(3) = 5.3674 Pr = 0.147, cities Pear­son chi2(7) = 7.9435 Pr = 0.338) and so we can not sug­gest lo­ca­tion and gen­der are as­so­ci­ated. ↩︎

  6. We recog­nise that the mean of a Lik­ert scale as a mea­sure of cen­tral ten­dency has limited mean­ing in in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Though im­perfect it’s un­clear that re­port­ing the means is a worse solu­tion than other op­tions the team dis­cussed. ↩︎