Jakob_J's Shortform

by Jakob_J10th Oct 20206 comments
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Are emergencies different from non-emergencies? A new paper ( https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11098-020-01566-0 ) argues that the obligation of saving a drowning child is different from the obligation of donating to effective charities in order to save a life. They claim that in emergencies where we can directly intervene to save a life, we are obliged as participants in an informal insurance scheme in society to intervene even at great cost to ourselves. Through this model they aim to explain the "common sense" moral intuition that it is worse to ignore a drowning child than to not donate $3000 to the Against Malaria Foundation. Overall an interesting read that may be of interest to EA-aligned folks.

How much money is required to raise a family?

A big part of many peoples motivation for earning a high income seems to be the perception that it is a necessity in order to raise a family. Many EA-aligned jobs are in the public or NGO sector and are less paid than what people could earn in the private sector, and since close to 80% people have children, this could be big factor for people to give up on an EA-aligned career. 

I am wondering whether this reasoning is valid, and where the extra cost for children comes from. In most western countries, there is high quality education available freely for everyone, healthcare is either free or subsidized, and children generally receive lots of support from the government (free dentist appointments, free/subsidized school meals, student loans etc). Food is a small part of the monthly budget and shouldn't be a big factor, clothes could be obtained from low-cost outlets or second-hand. That leaves more expensive budget items such as having a big house, a large car, vacation money etc. However, these might just be luxuries that make a relatively small difference in how "successful" one is in raising a family compared to other things, such as having lots of time. 

It would be really interesting to see some analysis on how the decision about whether to have children or not should impact one's career planning, especially for those considering EA-aligned career options.

Childcare is a very big cost - if you think that you are trying to spend a portion of your income on childcare, but for the worker this is their entire income, and the number of children one person can look after is limited (both by practicalities and also regulation), you can see why it tends to be expensive.

I would however keep in mind that most people who work in the public or NGO sector do manage to raise families though!

This depends on where you live. But for Europe and the US, usually the biggest expense factors are housing (bigger place required, particularly in the long term) and childcare (both in terms of paid childcare for young children as well as lost wages). In some countries, childcare is subsidized however, sometimes heavily so, reducing the costs.

If just having lots of time was most important for being "successful" in raising a family, it would still cost a lot of money - it is time you cannot spend working.

When I lived in Germany with heavily subsidized childcare, I never felt like I needed to earn a lot of money to have children. Living in the UK now, particularly in London, with very little subsidized childcare, I feel more forced to have a higher earning job.

Julia has written about her experience here.

Thanks for sharing your perspective! It seems like having a family in major metropolitan areas are especially challenging due to the much higher housing cost. I am wondering if you have any examples of the types of jobs you think would be difficult to afford raising a family in London (alternatively, what salary)? For example, it seems that a civil servant could earn £40,000 per year after a few years of experience, and I suspect other sectors where EAs would want to work might pay a similar amount (academia, NGOs etc).

Regarding having lots of time, it is true that being a stay at home parent leads to substantial loss of income. What I was wondering was more along the lines of: is it worth trying to earn say £80,000+ per year working in finance just to be able to afford a larger house, but working 80+hours/week, when say a civil servant would have fixed 40 working hours per week, free weekends, but earning half as much. In terms of income vs time, my intuition is that time is more valuable than income when having children, even if it means saving on housing costs.

I was thinking of a salary in the mid £40k range when I said that I feel like I need a higher salary to be able to afford living in London with children as it is my salary as a civil servant. :-) That is significantly above median and average UK salary. And still ~20% above median London salary, though I struggled to quickly find numbers for average London salary.

I think if you have two people earning £40k+ each having kids in London is pretty doable even if both are GWWC pledgers. I think I'd feel uncomfortable if both parents brought in less than £30k, though it would be fine in different areas of the UK.

Only few people in the UK can earn above £80k. Most people have kids anyway. I personally wouldn't think the trade-off you are suggesting is worth it on selfish/child benefiting grounds alone (ignoring EtG potential). But different parents want to make different trade-offs for their children, they value different things.

If you are surrounded by people who think £80k salaries are a necessity to raise children, maybe you would find it helpful to surround yourself more with many different kinds of families of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Their kids can be happy too :-)