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GiveWell's Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

Updated: November 2017

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 and to include subjective inputs as well as value judgments. We do not make charity recommendations solely on the basis of cost-effectiveness calculations and will rely more 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 have published the values and judgments inputted by individuals who have worked on GiveWell's research and use an aggregate of these values and judgments to arrive at our best guess of the cost-effectiveness of each program. We encourage those who are interested to make a copy of the model with the link below and edit it with their own inputs. We also strongly encourage those who use our research to read more about our approach to cost-effectiveness, as well as its benefits and limitations, here.

We made a video walkthrough to help explain how our cost-effectiveness model works, based on the final 2016 version of the model. Our intention in publishing this is to improve our transparency by making this model easier to understand, but because we're speaking off the cuff, it's possible that there are minor errors.

Make sure to watch the video in HD in full screen to be able to see the details.

2017 Cost-Effectiveness Analyses

In 2017, we will be releasing more frequent updates to our cost-effectiveness model than we have in past years. We will publish release notes indicating changes made between versions. Each release of our model will involve a single Google Sheets workbook with separate tabs for the interventions carried out by our top charities.

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.