Effective Altruism in non-high-income countries

I’ve been asked the fol­low­ing ques­tions a few times now by peo­ple from non-high-in­come coun­tries:

  • how to go about find­ing effec­tive char­i­ties in their home coun­try?

  • how should one work on effec­tive al­tru­ism or the pro­mo­tion of effec­tive char­i­ta­ble giv­ing in their coun­try?

  • what are the most effec­tive ca­reers in their home coun­try?

To the best of my knowl­edge, there is no cen­tral re­source for peo­ple from non-high in­come coun­tries with generic ad­vice on how to best “go about effec­tive al­tru­ism” in their coun­tries.

Maybe we can use this thread to col­lect in­for­ma­tion on this topic.

Con­text: Effec­tive al­tru­ism has mostly been ap­plied in high-in­come coun­tries and so there are per­haps some cru­cial limi­ta­tions in how far things can be ap­plied in non-high in­come coun­tries. The peo­ple who have ap­proached me some­times say that the promi­nent EA causes (global poverty, an­i­mal welfare or global catas­trophic risk) are harder to pro­mote in their coun­tries.

To a first ap­prox­i­ma­tion, if a cause in a given non-high-in­come coun­try is X times less effec­tive than the top cause globally, but >X times eas­ier to pro­mote, then it might make sense to fo­cus on mov­ing re­sources (time and money) to­wards a more lo­cal cause.

In other words, per­haps peo­ple in a given non-high-in­come coun­try would, for in­stance, be eas­ily con­vinced to give to or work for a char­ity that is very effec­tive at im­prov­ing health or re­duc­ing poverty in their coun­try, but the char­ity is not as effec­tive as effec­tive global poverty char­i­ties such as GiveDirectly. How­ever, be­cause GiveDirectly is a much harder to pro­mote in said coun­try, it is more effec­tive to pro­mote na­tional char­i­ties.

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To start off the dis­cus­sion, here are some ex­am­ples of gen­er­al­iz­able things one might look at. I’m not very cer­tain in any of these sug­ges­tions and they might not ap­ply to many coun­tries. I also haven’t spent much time think­ing about putting these to­gether and they should maybe more thought of as in­spira­tion than any­thing.

1. For in­stance, the Global Bur­den of Disease vi­su­al­iza­tion tool study let’s one look at differ­ent coun­tries’ dis­ease bur­dens. One could find out whether one’s coun­try has a com­par­a­tively large dis­ease bur­den rel­a­tive to other coun­tries in their refer­ence class. Then one could find out whether rel­a­tively lit­tle is spent on the dis­ease (whether it is ne­glected) and whether it is per­haps rel­a­tively solv­able (see the 80,000 Hours prob­lem frame­work).

2. One might also find effec­tive causes by us­ing Google Scholar and search for generic terms that might un­cover stud­ies look­ing at effec­tive poli­cies AND the coun­try in ques­tion. For in­stance, use the fol­low­ing search term:

“DALY averted” AND Rus­sia

Or to find high eco­nomic costs fac­ing one’s coun­try, use the fol­low­ing search term:

“100..1000 billion dol­lar” OR “USD 100..1000 billion” OR “US * 100..1000 billion” AND countryX

or look at cost-effec­tive­ness stud­ies by us­ing the fol­low­ing search terms:

“benefit cost ra­tio” OR “net benefit” OR “In­ter­nal Rate of Re­turn” OR “Net Pre­sent Value” OR “In­cre­men­tal cost-effec­tive­ness ra­tio” AND countryX

3. One could also see whether high im­pact poli­cies would ap­ply to one’s coun­try, such as to­bacco tax­a­tion (see “The Sin­gle Best Health policy in the World: Tobacco Taxes” and 80k’s to­bacco tax­a­tion pro­file).

It might also be eas­ier to get peo­ple to provide global pub­lic goods, such as pro­mot­ing poli­cies that re­duces green­house gas emis­sions (see for in­stance my pa­per on the most effec­tive cli­mate change poli­cies).

Or it might be pos­si­ble to de­crease the risk of global pub­lic bads by for in­stance find­ing out whether one’s coun­try does par­tic­u­larly poorly on the Nu­clear Threat Ini­ti­a­tive’s in­dex or coun­try pro­files.

4. With some read­ing done, one could per­haps sur­vey rep­utable schol­ars in one’s coun­try on what the most effec­tive causes in their coun­try are (There might already be some out there, e.g. this is a a bit of triv­ial ex­am­ple say­ing that economist agree that Cuba has bad eco­nomic poli­cies, but there might be more use­ful sur­veys. The Copen­hagen Con­sen­sus has an in­ter­est­ing re­search method­ol­ogy on find­ing good eco­nomic poli­cies in differ­ent coun­tries).

5. Or per­haps one can work on im­prov­ing in­sti­tu­tional de­ci­sion mak­ing. Or per­haps the very best thing might be to in­creas­ing sus­tain­able growth in one’s coun­try, per­haps by im­prov­ing perfor­mance in the World Bank’s Do­ing Busi­ness in­di­ca­tors.