akrolsmir's Shortform

post by Austin (akrolsmir) · 2022-03-03T09:49:35.628Z · EA · GW · 6 comments

6 comments

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comment by Austin (akrolsmir) · 2022-05-31T14:56:50.099Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Missing-but-wanted children now substantially outnumber unwanted births. Missing kids are a global phenomenon, not just a rich-world problem. Multiplying out each country’s fertility gap by its population of reproductive age women reveals that, for women entering their reproductive years in 2010 in the countries in my sample, there are likely to be a net 270 million missing births—if fertility ideals and birth rates hold stable. Put another way, over the 30 to 40 years these women would potentially be having children, that’s about 6 to 10 million missing babies per year thanks to the global undershooting of fertility.

https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-global-fertility-gap

Replies from: akrolsmir
comment by Austin (akrolsmir) · 2022-05-31T15:01:59.729Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

For reference - malaria kills 600k a year. Covid has killed 6m to date.

If you believe creating an extra life is worth about the same as preventing an extra death (very controversial, but I hold something like this) then increasing fertility is an excellent cause area.

comment by Austin (akrolsmir) · 2022-03-03T09:49:35.815Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

What's the QALY cost of the sanctions on Russia? How does it compare to the QALY lost in the Ukraine conflict?

My sense of the media narrative has been "Russia/Putin bad, Ukraine good, sanctions good". But if you step back (a lot) and squint, both direct warfare and economic sanctions share the property of being negative-sum transactions. Has anyone done an order-of-magnitude calculation for the cost of this?

(extremely speculative)

Quick stab: Valuing one QALY at $100k (rough figure for US), Russian GDP was $1.4T;  the ruble has lost 30% of its value. If we take that to be a 10% contraction, $140B/$100k = 1.4M QALY lost; if 80 QALY = 1 life, then 17.5k lives lost.

Replies from: HaukeHillebrandt
comment by Hauke Hillebrandt (HaukeHillebrandt) · 2022-03-03T12:49:49.260Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Edit: re: downvotes for OP: to clarify, I support the downvotes and don't endorse the premise of the question - damage to the Russian economy and its indirect health effects are not the dominant consideration here. Because Ukraine will suffer much more, the question's premise is naive and insensitive.  I tried to answer this because I wanted to show how much harm Putin inflicted on Russia by starting this war indirectly and which might outweigh the direct casualties on the Russian side. 

Countries usually value a QALY at 1-3x their GDP.

But also, GDP reduction and QALYs might not commensurable in that way...

I have a more detailed note on diminishing returns here. In brief, according to the law of logarithmic utility—a simple rule of thumb is that a dollar is worth 1/X times as much if you are X times richer. So doubling someone's income is worth the same amount no matter where they start. If GDP per capita is $10k, a $1 reduction is 10x less bad as at $1k mark. In other words, people will probably rather give up money than health on that current margin. 

But there are ways to calculate this and it's probably gonna be bad...

One Lancet study suggests that the 2008 economic crisis caused 0.5 million  excess cancer-related deaths worldwide. This is just cancer, which is about 15% of global mortality and so a naive extrapolation might suggest mortality figures in the millions. There are 50m deaths per year globally, so maybe there was a 10% increase.

Russia has about 2m deaths per year.

GDP loss is projected to be similar to 2008 or Covid.

https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare/ 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673618314855 

https://ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1-s2.0-S0140673618314855-mmc1.pdf

Replies from: akrolsmir
comment by Austin (akrolsmir) · 2022-03-06T05:00:12.324Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for taking the time to write this response!

I'm not exactly sure what premise downvoters are reading from my question. To be clear, I think the war is a horrible idea and it's important to punish defection in a negative-sum way (aka impose sanctions on countries in violation of international laws).

The main point I wanted to entertain was: it's sad when we have to impose sanctions on countries; lots of people will suffer. In the same way it's sad when a war is fought, and lots of people suffer. We should be careful not to treat economic punishment as qualitatively different or intrinsically superior to direct violence; its a question of how much net utility different responses produce for the world.

Replies from: HaukeHillebrandt
comment by Hauke Hillebrandt (HaukeHillebrandt) · 2022-03-06T13:22:09.983Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for clarifying - fwiw I didn't think you're ill-intentioned... and at its core your question re: innocent Russians suffering due to sanctions is a valid one - as you say, all suffering counts equally independent of who suffers (and Russians will definitely suffer much more so than most people who are living a relatively affluent life in the west). But because Ukrainians are currently disproportionately suffering much more than Russian, the question might have struck some people as tone-deaf or inappropriate. Even taking aside the terrible direct humanitarian impact of the war, just consider Russia's GDP per capita being $10k, while Ukraine's being $3k before the war and it'll have a much bigger hit to the economy.