This is an awesome idea! 80k would probably be interested in compiling a bunch of the answers you get :)
I would love to hear more about your job, and it might be really useful for RP too since they’re hiring ;)
This is really cool! Thanks for sharing, Michael :)
The national averages were determined using the same measurement instruments we used, but they did not control for non-respondents the way we did. My intuition is that the national averages are pretty accurate because they had big sample sizes and did not seem to be obviously sampling from a more depressed/anxious segment of the population.
But you can decide for yourself:
In a national sample collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (n = 31,366), 8.75% of people in the United States meet the criteria for moderate to severe depression. When restricting the national sample to only those with a college degree or above (n = 6,660), national rates of moderate or severe depression were much lower than what we found in our graduate student sample: 3.8%
In a national sample (n = 5,030), 5.1% of Americans met the criteria for moderate or severe anxiety on the same measure (Löwe et al., 2008).
We controlled for non-responders by keeping track of how many reminders it took subjects to respond to the survey, and checked to see whether the harder it was to get people to respond predicted their depression or anxiety scores. It did not. We also had such a high response rate (30%) that even if all of our non-respondents felt depression or anxiety at rates equal to national averages (unlikely), the graduate students would still be worse off on average.
We are writing up the paper now! We sampled in 2019 and 2020. We used the PHQ9 to measure to depression and the GAD7 to measure anxiety. Happy to answer any questions if you have :)
In my research I have found Princeton graduate students experience higher rates of moderate to severe depression (21.99%-27.90%) and anxiety (24.53%-27.80%) compared to national averages (8.75% for depression, 5.1% for anxiety). We had over 900 respondents (~30% response rate), and used a difficulty to reach technique to check our results generalize to non-respondents, which most other studies of this kind do not do.As a result, I am very confident PhD students are more depressed and anxious than the general population, and I am very hesitant to recommend doing a PhD.
I think these are really important questions too!
It has been very frustrating sitting in Psychology seminars led by big prestigious professors, listening to them spout absolute nonsense completely unsupported by quantitative analysis. So I feel your pain for sure! Digging up one of my old tweets: Social Psych talk: no error bars, description of stats, or listing size of subject groups. p values displayed as p=0. This is accepted?
I like these a lot! Thanks for sharing :)
This is cool, thanks for sharing! Looks like Lucius Caviola’s and Stefan Schubert’s research projects are already on your radar ;)
The following list is not ordered.
I am glad my parents decided to have me.
My parents seem to be glad they had me.
It appears that my parents and my husband’s parents derive an intense amount of joy from interacting with their first grandchild, more joy than they receive from any other activity.
My family is one of my main sources of happiness and meaning. It will literally die off if I do not have children. (Alternative path: invent longevity technologies? Unfortunately not my skillset.)
I am relatively young, healthy, and financially stable. Statistically my child has a very strong chance of leading a positive utility life.
You don’t have to choose between having a positive impact on the world and having children; you can very much do both.
During my child’s first year of life, I started working on some cool EA Psych/X Risk research.
During my child’s first year of life, my husband published a highly appreciated (objectively measured by upvotes!) AI-alignment literature review and did EtG without getting fired.
Plenty of EAs doing AMAZING work have kids (e.g., Toby Ord, Julia Wise, Michelle Hutchinson, Peter Singer).
Nothing at all was accomplished for the first three months after having a baby. Little was done between 3-6 months. 50% productivity was achieved between 6-12 months. At 12 months, things are pretty good. The massive hit to productivity seems to be a 1 X child event, which, amortized over the next 30 years of our expected careers, is not too bad.
After having a child, I feel more connected to humanity in a way that is difficult to describe but is nice. Things I file under this category include:
Having spontaneous, warm conversations with people who would absolutely never speak to me otherwise when I was visibly pregnant. I lived in the same town for 7 years and went from having approximately 1 conversation with strangers a month to ~10 a month. These interactions were all very kind, and made me very happy. (Your mileage may vary if you don’t like interactions with strangers.)
Going from feeling vaguely positively towards children to feeling incredibly protective of all human children. Reading about violence against children went from unpleasant to intolerable.
Having more positive conversations with my family/my in laws than ever before.
All this being said: the first three months after childbirth is literally torture for whoever is waking up at night to feed the baby. Plus there is a strong possibility that I and/or my baby would have died if I hadn’t given birth in a high quality hospital (we had a prolapsed cord and then a lot of maternal hemorrhaging). So despite all the nice stuff written above, I don’t think it’s an easy decision to make.
Same. Especially agree that the format of the event needs to be structured so that ideas are not presented as facts, but are instead open to (lots of public) criticism.
As somebody currently involved in a university group, I am extremely sympathetic towards the EA Munich group, even though they might have made a mistake here. There is a huge amount of pressure to avoid controversial topics/speakers, and it seems like they did not have a lot of time to make a decision in light of new evidence. I have hosted Peter Singer for multiple events (and am glad to have done so), but it has led to multiple uncomfortable confrontations that the average student group (e.g., knitting society) just does not have to deal with.
This highlights why Larks’ post is so important. When groups face decisions about when to carry out or cancel an event, having an explicit framework for this decision making would be incredibly helpful. I’m very glad to see Julia Wise/CEA engage with this post, as I think it would be helpful for both CEA and local groups to decide at the beginning of term/before inviting speakers what qualifies people to be speakers.
The main (in my opinion, reasonable) principles elucidated in this post as I read it are:
1. Openness to unusual ideas is one of the guiding principles of Effective Altruism; groups should uphold and promote this.
2. Fundamental cause research that challenges existing ideas to the movement is important; we should not punish people for engaging in it.
But it is also important to consider what *disqualifies* people from speaking.
The most critical thing to me would be a speaker’s history of promoting ideas in bad faith. (E.g., promoting ideas that have been clearly falsified with scientific evidence; deliberately falsifying data in order to push a specific agenda.) I am sure there are other factors that would also make sense to consider! It would be helpful for them to be elucidated somewhere.
I agree with absolutely everything you’ve written, Michelle!
Something that I wish I had internalized a bit more was the negative impact of baby induced sleep deprivation. Everybody tells you that you’ll miss sleep after you have a baby, but I still think I was unprepared for what that meant. It’s really hard to describe the psychological torture of not getting to sleep for more than 3 hours in a row for months on end. We did sleeping shifts too, but because of breastfeeding and supersonic mommy hearing, I feel like I still woke up every 2-3 hours when Lizzie cried. There’s a video recording of me talking about current events a couple of months after Lizzie was born, and I HAVE NO MEMORY OF PARTICIPATING IN THIS EXPERIENCE. Watching my zonked out zombie self on camera really drove home how much the sleep deprivation changed me.
This essay sums it up pretty well: https://www.scarymommy.com/100-days-darkness-new-baby/
This looks cool, I just signed up. Hope to see you guys online.
Update: I love Focusmate and it is directly responsible for me actually getting anything done. 11⁄10, hugely recommend.
Sir, I resent your insinuation that Princeton is not a major city.
I’ll have you know our population is large enough to support a bar AND a pub. The latter only serves ice cream, but still.
Our big lectures (e.g., Will MacAskill on September 30th) are open to ALL, regardless of university affiliation. Hope you can come :)
Our weekly dinner discussion groups are also open to all. They are pretty short (60 minutes) so they’re only worth coming to if you’re not commuting from far away. Since we order food in advance for these, it would be super helpful to RSVP on facebook if you’re planning to come.
A small selection of our events will be closed due to huge demand. For example, people will need to apply for dinner with Peter Singer. This will be made clear in our publicity for each event.