Rational Altruist

Adventures of a would-be do-gooder.

Category: Empirical

Making people richer

Many interventions seem to have the effect of “making people richer.” In addition to understanding the long-run impacts of prosperity, I am interested in looking in more detail at what happens when you make someone richer, and looking at a few examples to understand whether the intuitive model of a small across-the-board increase in real income is reasonable.

As a first example, I’ll look at cash transfers in the developing world. I think very similar ideas are needed for the analysis of many interventions in the developing world (e.g. health interventions) and also for many interventions in the developed world (e.g. supporting self-driving cars). But it seems useful to first go through the analysis with a particular case in mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Self-driving cars as a target for philanthropy

The cost of driving

Driving causes a lot of damage; in the US alone, each year there are about 2 million accidents, around 30,000 people die, the CDC estimates $100 billion of costs from injuries and lost productivity, and it looks like¬†well over 50 billion hours are spent driving. (Interesting aside: these quantities would all be equal at $2 / hour and $3 million / life, which I believe are relatively close to the average american’s actual reservation prices.)

Another way to estimate the size of losses from auto collisions is to look at the auto insurance industry, which has revenues of around $180B, of which more than 2/3 goes to claims. Claims and CDC estimates seem likely to be (highly correlated) overestimates for damages, but I think the ballpark figure of $100B in damages, 30,000 lives, and 50 billion hours is probably about right.¬† Read the rest of this entry »

Cost of carbon emissions

Many are concerned about the long-term environmental effects of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. Based on this concern, they may make sacrifices to reduce their own energy consumption. I wonder: how serious are such concerns? Read the rest of this entry »