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GiveWell's Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

Updated: April 2020

Our cost-effectiveness analyses are an important input into our charity recommendations. We view cost-effectiveness analyses as valuable for helping us identify large differences in the cost-effectiveness of organizations we're considering for a recommendation and to encourage staff to think through relevant issues related to charities' work. However, although we spend significant staff time on our cost-effectiveness analyses, we consider our cost-effectiveness numbers to be extremely rough. We do not make charity recommendations solely on the basis of cost-effectiveness calculations and will rely heavily on other factors, such as an organization's track record, when we are comparing organizations with cost-effectiveness estimates that are not very different.

The model relies on individuals' philosophical values—for example, how to weigh increasing a person's income relative to averting a death—and difficult judgment calls about which we have limited information, such as the likelihood that a program as it is implemented will have the same impact as the program when it was studied. We encourage those who are interested to make a copy of the model and edit it to account for their own values. We also strongly encourage those who use our research to read more about our approach to cost-effectiveness and our page with details on a 2019 survey of about 2,000 people living in extreme poverty in Kenya and Ghana about how they value different outcomes.

Our Cost-Effectiveness Model

Last Updated: November 25, 2019

The most recent version of our model can be accessed via the links below. Earlier versions of the 2019 model are accessible via links in the changelog.

This version of our model estimates the cost-effectiveness of funding gaps we expect our top charities to fill after taking grants we expect Open Philanthropy to make this year into account (see here).

An extensive document about our cost-effectiveness analysis, primarily intended for staff members at GiveWell, is publicly accessible here.

Past Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

2018 Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

In 2018, we published frequent updates to our model. The most recent version of the 2018 model can be accessed via the links below. Earlier versions of the 2018 model are accessible via links in the changelog.

2017 Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

Version 5 — Published November 27, 2017

Version 4 — Published November 8, 2017

Version 3 — Published October 27, 2017

Version 2 — Published August 16, 2017

Version 1 — Published May 20, 2017

2016 Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

Final Analysis

  • Long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, deworming, cash transfers, and seasonal malaria chemoprevention – view or make an editable copy

Mid-year update

  • Long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, deworming, cash transfers, and iodine fortification – download file (.xlsx)

2015 Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

Final Analyses

2014 Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

Final Analyses

Interim Analyses

2013 Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

2012 Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

See also this blog post discussing our 2012 cost-effectiveness estimates.