According to the most recent World Bank estimate, in 2013 about 767 million people lived on less than the equivalent of $1.90 per day, adjusted for purchasing power (World Bank 2016). Lack of economic resources has direct consequences on many aspects of people’s lives, including access to education and healthcare. Poverty and poor health also seriously hinder the well-being of millions of people. This is why economic poverty and the global burden of disease are primary focus areas for effective altruism.
As a result of widening global inequality, the cost of averting death is much lower in low-income countries. For instance, GiveWell estimates the cost per child life saved through a bed-net distribution funded by the Against Malaria Foundation at about $3,500 (Give Well 2016). By contrast, the British National Health Service considers it cost-effective to spend $25,000-£37,000 for a year of healthy life saved (Rigby 2014). This means that donations to charities that work on global poverty and global health can be very cost-effective. Global inequality also affects the impact of cash transfers: given the extent of global inequality, a dollar is worth 66 times as much to a person living in extreme poverty as to the average American (Weyl 2014)
Some worry that employing aid to tackle these issues is problematic. Effective altruism has sought to address several of these concerns, including worries about aid effectiveness and aid and paternalism.
Centre for Effective Altruism. Cause profile: Global Health and Development
80,000 Hours. Health in poor countries.
80,000 Hours. Smoking in the developing world.
Give Well. 2016. Against Malaria Foundation (AMF).
Givewell. Your Dollar Goes Further Overseas.
Hillebrandt, Hauke. 2016. Median GDP per capita.
Kaufman, Jeff. 2013. The Unintuitive Power Laws of Giving.
Ord, Toby. 2013. The Moral Imperative toward Cost-Effectiveness in Global Health.
Rigby, Jennifer. 2014. Why the NHS thinks a healthy year of life is worth £20,000.
Weyl, E Glen. 2015. The openness-equality trade-off in global redistribution.
The Economic Journal, forthcoming.
Wiblin, Robert. 2016. Is global health the most pressing problem to work on?
World Bank. 2016. Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality.