We've had feedback from a number of people who, in light of recent political developments in the US, are unsure about supporting charities that focus on improving the lives of the world’s poorest people, through initiatives like One for the World. We recognize that many of our members care deeply about, and give generously to, domestic causes, but we want to set out a few reasons why we think it is a great idea to continue to give generously to help the world’s poorest people.
Effective Altruists often use importance, tractability and neglectedness to assess how promising donations would be in different cause areas. In this post we show that:
- extreme poverty remains a hugely important global problem;
- the Trump administration's policies are likely to have a significant negative effect on the lives of the world's poorest people;
- the charities that One for the World recommends have strong evidence of impact, and solve tractable problems faced by the global poor;
- the world's poorest people remain relatively neglected; and
- you can give to domestic causes that you are passionate about and still support high impact charities that help the world’s poorest people, through initiatives like OFTW.
Despite recent progress, there are still a huge number of people living in global poverty that need assistance
The latest figures from WHO show that 16,000 children under the age of 5 still die every day, and the majority of these deaths are due to diseases that are preventable and treatable through simple, affordable interventions. The World Bank estimates that 767 million people still live on less than $1.90 a day.
The good news is that both of these numbers have decreased significantly in recent years: in 1990, 35,000 children under 5 died each day, and 1.85 billion people lived in extreme poverty. A significant part of the explanation for this decline is an increase in funding for programs that have been shown to improve the lives of the poor, such as those supported by One for the World. For example, the number of people dying from malaria in 2015 was roughly half what it was in 2000, and this is largely due to an increase in funding going towards the distribution of bed nets:
However, these numbers show that there are still a huge number of people suffering in extreme poverty and dying from preventable diseases. There is still plenty of work to be done to eliminate extreme poverty, and some of the recent progress may be threatened by the Trump administration's policies.
The Trump administration's policies will likely hurt some of the world's most vulnerable people
The Trump administration is still in its early days, but a number of executive orders and announcements indicate that the administration is likely to have a negative effect on the world's poorest people:
- In January, President Trump reinstated - and expanded - the 'global gag rule' in one of his first executive orders, barring US foreign aid from going to any nongovernmental organization (NGO) that either provides abortion services, or even discusses abortion with its patients as an option for family planning. These funding cuts will apply to roughly $9.5 billion in global health funding, affecting a range of services beyond the $575 million spent on family planning and reproductive health. These cuts are likely to go beyond abortion, and even beyond contraception, and are likely to affect HIV prevention and treatment and maternal healthcare services. Two charities in our Top Picks portfolio, Population Services International and Possible, have a large focus on family planning and maternal health.
- In March, the Trump administration's 'skinny budget' proposed a 28% cut to international aid. Although the budget is unlikely to pass Congress, it seems likely that foreign aid is facing significant cuts in the coming years.
- A number of development economists have argued that international migration is one of the most effective ways for people to escape extreme poverty, and the resettlement of refugees can help some of the world's most vulnerable people. The Trump administration's hard stance against both migration and refugees is likely to damage a large number of people living in developing countries and conflict zones.
- Last week, President Trump signed an executive order to curb the federal government's enforcement of climate change regulations. The effects of climate change are likely to be largest for the world's poorest people, with the UN estimating that up to 122 million more people might live in extreme poverty by 2030 as a result of climate change.
We know of highly cost-effective ways to help those living in global poverty
It can be hard to know how much impact a donation to many domestic and international charities will have. However, in most cases, donations go further when given to help the world's poorest people. In addition, One for the World's charities have been thoroughly vetted and have very strong evidence of impact, so you can be confident that your donation is having a large, positive impact on the lives of some of the world's poorest people. For example:
- The Against Malaria Foundation distributes free bed nets to families living in malaria-endemic areas, at a cost of just $2.50 per net. There is a wealth of evidence showing that this reduces malaria infections and infant mortality.
- A randomized controlled trial of Living Goods' community health promoters program estimated that it reduces child mortality by 27%.
- A randomized controlled trial of GiveDirectly's cash transfer program estimates that it increases earnings, assets and nutritional expenditure among its recipients.
Helping those living in global poverty is a relatively neglected cause
Despite the scale and tractability of global poverty, the vast majority of donations in the USA go to domestic causes: 94% of donations by individuals in the USA go to domestic nonprofits. It is hard to tell whether and how this will change in the coming years, but there is some anecdotal evidence suggesting that media coverage of President Trump's policies may increase donations to domestic charities, possibly at the expense of those working on causes that are receiving less media attention, including global poverty. For example, the ACLU received $24 million in donations, more than six times greater than it normally receives in a year, in the weekend after President Trump's first executive order barring refugees and citizens of majority-Muslim countries from entering the USA. Global poverty is a cause that is relatively neglected by American donors, and this may be exacerbated by media coverage of the Trump administration's policies.
You can give to both domestic and international causes
The average American gives 2.9% of their income to charity. One for the World asks you to give a portion of that amount, 1% of your income, to highly effective charities working to help the world's poorest people. Many of our members adopt a portfolio approach in their giving, and give to both domestic and international causes. Rob, our 2016 Wharton MBA Co-President, explains his portfolio-based approach to giving in this blog post.
One for the World encourages people to treat their charitable giving in a similar way to how they treat their investments. By giving at least 1% of your income to evidence-backed charities helping some of the world's poorest people, you can significantly increase the impact of your giving portfolio.