Earning to give is the pursuit of a lucrative career with the purpose of donating a significant portion of the earnings to cost-effective organizations.

The value of earning to give may not be immediately obvious, since people tend to think of ethical jobs as those with a direct positive impact. A useful framing for comparing the social impact of earning to give with that of traditional careers in the nonprofit sector is to consider whether someone pursuing a lucrative career could earn enough to fund at least one nonprofit worker as competent as him- or herself. This will often be the case because there is considerable salary variation across career-types, because money is a fungible resource that can fund many different causes, and because the impact of a charity worker is usually only marginally higher than that of its counterfactual replacement.[1]

Although this approach has sometimes been represented as the highest impact type of career, 80,000 Hours currently believes that it is the best option for only a small proportion of members of the effective altruism community.[2] To a significant extent, this follows from the fact that the most promising causes tend to be talent-constrained rather than funding-constrained.[3]

The expression earning to save has been suggested for a type of earning to give where earnings are invested for later disbursement rather than donated immediately.[4][5] A "moderate" version of investing until the end of a person's career may be contrasted with an "extreme" version of investing for as long as possible (potentially involving many generations, centuries or millennia).

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