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the_jaded_one comments on How accurately does anyone know the global distribution of income? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: the_jaded_one 09 April 2017 11:41:11AM *  4 points [-]

If minimum standards rise to $90,000 and I'm earning $100,000, I would argue they do probably affect me substantially and my original premise of 'minimum standards that basically don't affect me' no longer holds.

And I think the reality of the situation facing many people in the intended audience of the original graph is at least somewhat like that.

As this debate has progressed, the amount of income corresponding the targeted person has gradually moved upwards from $70k gross in an expensive area of The West (Bay Area, Oxford UK, NYC, London) to $200k net in an average-cost-area (Ohio). I feel like there is something of a motte-and-bailey defence going on here:

  • the "motte" is the position that the superstar lawyer earning $200k after tax who inexplicably lives in Cleveland, Ohio could pretty reasonably be said to be roughly 200 times richer than the person in the developing world on $1000. Not quite true (because it still fails the division test), but close. Problem with the "motte": If you literally told young EA recruitment targets that they all earned $200k post tax and lived in Cleveland, Ohio where living costs are average, they would unanimously object that that's nowhere near their situation in life.

  • the "bailey" is position that young potential EA recruits earning $70k net in an expensive area are literally 100 times richer than an average Indian earning $700. Advantage of the "bailey": makes people feel extremely guilty and more likely to donate money or sign the pledge. Disdvantage of the "bailey": as always, it's not actually a defensible position. We can see this by the fact that as I push on it, a retreat is happening.

Comment author: AGB 16 April 2017 12:40:24PM 2 points [-]

Was this intended as a response to my comment? I didn't bring up the $70k figure or the $200k figure. I did take up one part of your argument (the 'minimum standards' part) and try to explain why I don't think using a $2k - $5k minimum as equivalent to the median Indian actually makes sense.

Advantage of the "bailey": makes people feel extremely guilty and more likely to donate money or sign the pledge.

FWIW I doubt this is actually true. I have generally strongly preferred to understate people's relative income rather than overstate it when 'selling' the pledge, because it shrinks the inferential distance.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 26 April 2017 03:37:54PM *  0 points [-]

I didn't bring up the $70k figure or the $200k figure

that may be true, but they are figures that have been brought up

FWIW I doubt this is actually true.

Maybe. But the promotional materials certainly seem to frame it that way.