Chris Blattman

Where should you give to help Nepal?

I really liked GiveWell’s post, where they summed up their general advice. In brief:

  • Money is usually not the limiting factor at the moment, though it will be at some point
  • Give to organized professionals who have a track record of turning donations into action
  • Give unconditionally, letting them spend it anywhere in the world
  • Give to more transparent and accountable organizations
  • Give cash
  • Think about giving to less publicized causes
  • Don’t give to those market directly to you, on the phone or the street

I think this is great advice. On this basis, GiveWell recommends Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross. I agree these are good bets. I have little to add, other than some fairly broad advice:

  • Consider giving in a year when others have stopped
  • Young people: consider giving up your plans to work in banking or consulting and taking a career in some form of international service, or if you do business, develop enterprise in poor countries
  • The best development intervention we know is international migration. Remember that the best gift your country could give is letting people move there more freely, so remember that when you vote.

19 Responses

  1. I’d also be interested in an answer to Nil’s question. Do you think working at an aid agency compares favorably against a counterfactual of, say, working in consulting and donating a substantial amount to GiveDirectly? I’d imagine the answer has a lot to do with labor elasticities and an individual’s comparative advantage [1], but I’d be curious to hear your take.

    Also, when it comes to developing enterprises in poor countries, do you have any recommendations for business areas that look promising? Manufacturing seems pretty central to development [2], but it seems like you’d be pushing against some pretty stiff global headwinds in that area. To be honest, I feel pretty naive about the business environment in poor countries, and don’t feel like I’d have much of a comparative advantage against an someone native to the country. Or are you thinking more about working at the level of private equity instead?

    [2] Do you have a summary of your recent work on textiles in Ethiopia? Are your findings similar to what David Atkin found in Mexico? (“Working for the Future: Female Factory Work and Child Health in Mexico”

  2. I often give to UNHCR since, well, they’re chronically underfunded and always rolling out aid somewhere. Good rules in general.

  3. > consider giving up your plans to work in banking or consulting and taking a career in some form of international service, or if you do business, develop enterprise in poor countries

    Chris: are you familiar with the “earning to give” path that some Effective Altruists pursue? Their advice would be “absolutely go be a consultant, then donate most of your income”. In international service, you’re likely to displace an employee similar to yourself. In a consultancy, you’re likely to displace an employee who is much less altruistic than yourself.

    There are certainly counterarguments. If you have one in mind, I’d like to know which one[s] it is.

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