4052Joined Aug 2014


I am the Principal Research Manager at Rethink Priorities working on, among other things, the EA Survey, Local Groups Survey, and a number of studies on moral psychology, focusing on animal, population ethics and moral weights.

In my academic work, I'm a Research Fellow working on a project on 'epistemic insight' (mixing philosophy, empirical study and policy work) and moral psychology studies, mostly concerned either with effective altruism or metaethics.

I've previously worked for Charity Science in a number of roles and was formerly a trustee of EA London.


EA Survey 2020


Thanks for asking. We're thinking of having a public dashboard showing the results for each month. At present, we're not thinking of posting each month's results on the Forum, but rather posting key results and intermittent updates. We think separate Forum posts every month might be unnecessary, since many of the results of the monthly tracker element of EA Pulse will make most sense in the context of multiple months having been run. 

Thanks for asking. No, this was supported by the FTX Future Fund.

If we look at the median age at which people first got involved in EA over the last few years (split by how many years they've been involved in EA to account for differential attrition), we can see that the median age of people first getting involved in EA in 2018, 2019 and 2020 declined (from 27 to 25 and then to 24).

I think the age at which people get involved in EA seems most relevant to your question, since average age across survey years is influenced by other factors (e.g. the mean age in EAS 2020 was lower, but this is largely due to EAS 2020 having more people in the newest cohorts than in previous survey years). But let me know if there's something else in particular you want to see.

Current composition of EA

For ease of comparison, we re-plotted the EA Survey data using the same format as your plot below.

  • Version 1 shows the actual distribution using the same categories you used. As you can see, it shows the EA community isn't actually very heavily skewed towards 16-25 year olds. In fact, there are more 26-35 year olds.
  • That said, these broad categories can be misleading. If we look at the cuts in version 2, we can see  that there are more 19-25 year olds than 26-30 year olds, and more of a general pyramid shape with progressively fewer people in each older bracket. So one can see from this why one might view EA as being very skewed towards the young.
  • On the other hand you can also see from version 2 that there are very few people who are 18 or younger. Moreover, you can see from version 3, that there are also very few people who are 20 or younger. Indeed, there are fewer people who are 20 or younger than there are 36-45 (even though there are very few people who are 36-45 (only about 16% are >35).
  • In short, EA is correctly thought of as a community dominated by ~21-34 year olds (over 2/3rds of the community are in this bracket), but not as very skewed towards the youngest brackets (16-25).

Age of recruitment to EA

I also think it's worth noting that the median age at which people first get involved in EA is not super young (around 24 across years, close to the cusp of your two main categories). In our survey of the general public, people aged 18-24 were also less likely to report having heard of EA than 25-44 year olds. This is compatible with student-recruitment being important for the community (even if the average age of recruitment is somewhat older than student age), and slightly pushing the age of the community in a younger direction, but the effect is small.

This is not to say that the community wouldn't benefit from more older (>35) professionals (which seems very plausible). But the problem seems broader than a student focus. Indeed, the vast majority of people in EA do not get involved due to student outreach (and plausibly, not due to any kind of direct EA outreach); yet I think we still tend to attract and retain predominantly people in their mid-20s to early 30s.

Thanks Alexander! I appreciate the offer to meet to talk about your experiences, that sounds very useful!

Who are the users for this survey, how will they be involved with the design, and how will findings be communicated with them?

We envisage the main users of the survey being EA orgs and decision-makers. We’ve already been in touch with some of the main groups and will reach out to some key ones to co-ordinate again now that we’ve formally announced. That said, we’re also keen to receive suggestions and requests from a broader set of stakeholders in the community (hence this announcement). 

The exact composition of the survey, in terms of serving different users, will depend on how many priority requests we get from different groups, so we’ll be working that out over the course of the next month as different groups make requests.

Will data, materials, code and documentation from the survey be made available for replication, international adaptation, and secondary analysis? 

Related to the above, we don’t know exactly how much we’ll be making public, because we don’t know how much of the survey will be part of the core public tracker vs bespoke requests from particular decision makers (which may or may not be private/confidential). That said, I’m optimistic we’ll be able to make a large amount public (or shared with relevant researchers) regarding the core tracker (e.g. for things we are reporting publicly).

Was there a particular reason to choose a monthly cycle for the survey? Do you have an end date in mind or are you hoping to continue indefinitely?

We’re essentially trialing this for 12 months, to see how useful it is and how much demand there seems to be for it, after which, if all goes well, we would be looking to continue and/or expand. 

The monthly cadence is influenced by multiple considerations. One is that, ideally, we would be able to detect changes over relatively short time-scales (e.g. in response to media coverage), and part of this trial will be to identify what is feasible and useful. Another consideration is that running more surveys within the time span will allow us to include more ad hoc time sensitive requests by orgs (i.e. things they want to know within a given month, rather than things we are tracking across time). I think it’s definitely quite plausible we might switch to a different cadence later, perhaps due to resource constraints (including availability of respondents).

I would agree that more general or fundamental attitudes are unlikely to change on a monthly cadence. I think it’s more plausible to see changes on a short time-frame for some of the more specific things we’re looking at (e.g awareness of or attitude towards particular (currently) low salience issues or ideas).

Looking forward to talking more about this.

We're planning to make more aggregate data about EAs per country available with the results of the next EA Survey (to be run this year).

In the meantime, I'll e-mail you about what results we can share about particular countries.

The short answer is simply that the vast majority of projects requested of us are highly time sensitive (i.e. orgs want them completed within very fast timeline), so we need to have the staff already in place if we’re to take them on, as it’s not possible to hire staff in time to complete them even if they are offering more than enough funding (e.g. 6 or 7 figures) to make it happen.

This is particularly unfortunate, since we want to grow our team to take on more of these projects, and have repeatedly turned down many highly skilled applicants who could do valuable work, exclusively due to lack of funding.

Still, I would definitely encourage people to reach out to us to see whether we have capacity for projects.

Thanks! It's a pity, because I'm a big fan of house plants,  and the heavy blackout blinds I use prevent getting fresh air via windows at night, so this would have been convenient if true.

This seems very plausible to me. Personal connections repeatedly appear to be among the most important factors for promoting people's continued involvement in and increased engagement with EA (e.g. 2019, 2020).

That said very few EAs appear to have any significant number of EAs who they would "feel comfortable reaching out to to ask for a favor" (an imperfect proxy for "friend" of course).

Anecdotally, EAs I speak to are usually surprised by how low these numbers are. (These are usually highly engaged EAs with lots of connections, who therefore likely have a very unusual experience of the EA community).

And yet these numbers are themselves almost certainly a large over-estimate of the total community, since respondents are themselves more likely to be highly engaged, and have more connections. So fewer people from groups with less connections are in the survey and plausibly those who are in the survey are disproportionately likely to have personal connections.

Among our respondents, >60% of the most highly engaged EAs (e.g. EA org staff and local group leaders) have >10 connections, and >70% have 5 or more. Conversely, a majority of the least engaged half of respondents (levels 1-3) have <2 connections, with 0 being the modal response.

Of course, these responses are from 2019, so it is quite possible that the situation has changed since then. 

I think (though, again, I only read it quickly) the paper includes estimates for both carbon sequestered and biomass growth for the plants.

I believe the plant which they used as the reference for that rough figure above increased in biomass by 132.5g but sequestered 56.4g carbon over several weeks, and the 0.8g carbon fixed per day comes from that latter figure.

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