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Against cash benchmarking for global development RCTs

Appreciate the post! A similar topic came up in a recent DC global health & development discussion

Could another argument for skipping the cash arm be having more resources for other RCTs?

Ideally, we'd study the cash arm and the asset transfer program simultaneously at multiple time periods. But each extra treatment arm and time period costs extra. I imagine one could use the savings for other RCTs instead.

Have there been any quality evaluations of the impacts of regime change?

Quick clarifying questions about your abstract if you have time.  I'm confused about the term "weakly constrained"

Does "weakly constrained" mean (a) the leader is weak because elite supporters make the leader weak, (b) the elite supporters are weak and can't limit the leader much, (c) a jargon-loaded academic definition that I shouldn't worry too much about because it's too hard to explain, or (d) something else?

Also, does personalist always mean anything about constrained-ness in theory? (Like I get in reality, it may correlate a certain way, but I'm wondering about the definition)

Why do EA events attract more men than women? Focus group data

This post offered concrete suggestions for increasing representation of women at EA events and in the movement as a whole. Before reading this, I thought of diversity-type issues as largely intractable, and that I had limited influence over them, even at the local level.

Immediately after reading this, I stopped doing pub socials (which was the main low-effort event I ran at the time). Over time, I pivoted towards more ideas-rich and discussion-based events.

The motivated reasoning critique of effective altruism

Really enjoyed the post. Would like clarification on something

However, I note that when some developmental economists venture out to do something new in climate change, these problems immediately rear up. This to me is moderate evidence for motivated reasoning and selection bias also being rampant in that cause area.

I'm not fully following this point and would like to hear more about it. Is this suggesting that development economists over-estimate the impacts of climate change or something else? And do you have any examples (any  will do, they don't have to be good) of what you've noted?

To me, modern-day development economics seems incredibly cognizant of how technocracy and grand theories could go wrong. It's therefore more rigorous (at least compared to other areas and other domains of economics). I'm curious if that rigor disappears when it comes to climate change.

Working at a (DC) policy think tank: Why you might want to do it, what it’s like, and how to get a job

How would you categorize the schedule flexibility at think tanks?  Do you believe it varies by the three categories you've mentioned or by seniority levels? My well-being and productivity are much higher with a later start time

I can think of one factor that encourages a rigid schedule. Government work starts at 8am or 9am, sometimes by mandate. Think tanks will have their workday earlier to maximize overlap with bureaucrat schedules

But I can also think of another factor that encourages a flexible schedule. "Ideas industry" work have deliverables that may not be time-sensitive. This means less hard deadlines, less need for "putting out fires", and less need for everyone to be on the exact same schedule

Careers Questions Open Thread

Hi Sonia, this was a path I previously considered. Hopefully someone else with actual experience will chime in. In the meantime, here's some armchair thoughts in no particular order.

If you haven't already, check out Chris Blattman's blog: He's a professor at UChicago who posted a lot on academia, policy, and economics. Highly recommend the articles linked on the sidebar.

If you're targeting a PhD, your school's ranking probably trumps everything else. And rankings tend to be consistent across sub-disciplines. There are some outliers -- I believe there's a University of California school that's high up in agricultural economics -- but generally speaking, the top 10 are always going to be Ivy Leagues.

You could try to aim for a specific advisor (Esther Duflo at MIT, or Dani Rodrik at Harvard), but I'm not sure how much control you have over that.

For networking purposes, you might find studying in DC/NYC/Boston helpful. Most US IDev jobs are in these three places (Boston is much smaller in presence, but it's also growing b/c of  J-PAL). The faculty in these locations may have more IDev connections. Plus you can pop into a think tank event on occasion

I'd only use this as a tiebreaker though. A top 20 school in the middle of nowhere is probably better for your career than a rank 50-80 school in DC. (Assuming you're pursuing a PhD, and a research-oriented path)

The funnel or the individual: Two approaches to understanding EA engagement

Could the Individual Approach be considered a complement to the Funnel Model?

The Individual Approach explains "Entry/ Transition" as a major life change. To me, that sounds a lot like moving deeper into the funnel

Long-term retention sounds like staying at your current stage. And drop-off sounds like moving back a stage, or leaving the funnel entirely

Stanford EA has Grown During the Pandemic; Your Group Can Too

I highly recommend Lightning Talks. Participants are allowed to present on any topic they want for 5 minutes. They've worked wonders for Effective Altruism DC.

The main consideration is how to do questions:  You can do these immediately after each talk. Or you can finish all talks, then do a giant free form discussion. Or you can finish all talks, ask who's interested in each speaker, and then split them up into breakout rooms. Or you can let people have ongoing conversations in the chat room. Or you can tell people to message the speaker individually.

The most orderly way is to do a short live Q&A after each talk. Then tell people to message the speaker directly for additional questions. This prevents the chatroom from spilling over into the next topic.

Other consideration would be getting enough people to do it in the first place. I suspect this event is great for sustaining momentum, but terrible for creating it.

As for topics, I suspect most groups should start by allowing any topic. The more restrictions you add, the less participation you'll get. Lightning Talks are primarily about lowering the barrier to presentation, and I have yet to hear of someone having too many lightning talks.

An Effective Altruist "Civic Handbook" for the USA (draft, calling for comments and assistance)

I tried logging in. Got a "This item might not exist or is no longer available" message.

Please do email a copy! My address is

EA Group Organizer Career Paths Outside of EA

(Speaking as a Software Engineer with 3 years professional experience, and a casual EA organizer in Washington DC for 1.5 years)

It's worth thinking about how technical a community-building role is. My impression of tech evangelist roles is that companies want your engineering skills to be top-notch, but are less strict about your community organizing skills. In that case, EA organizing would make sense as a side project but not as much sense as a full-time job.

The other caveat that comes to mind is whether EA offers opportunities for large-scale organizing. I can't think of that many EA groups with >50 regulars. But I can easily think of few tech meetups, local political chapters, and social groups with >100 regulars and enough engagement to have active Slack channels + multiple ongoing projects.  Edit: I no longer endorse this. EA DC got its first paid part-time organizer a few months ago (Q2 2021 if memory serves me right) and we definitely have >50 regulars now. I also suspect we still have considerable room to grow

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