Senior Manager, U.S. @ GiveDirectly
28 karmaJoined Working (6-15 years)United States


Laura Keen is a Senior Program Manager for GiveDirectly's U.S. office


Thanks for reading and for sharing feedback.

  • Re: child mortality - My assessment of trends was based on the time period included in the researchers' dataset. I appreciate your extended longitudinal assessment of the child mortality rate and the prompt to do additional research on the likely cause of the shared downward trend (introduction of social programs vs. improvements in medicine and technology). That the US has diverged in recent years from our wealthy peers and children and infants face a significantly higher risk of death here as a result is unchanged by this.
  • Re: counterfactually higher spending - $600B is actual money spent. With regards to money left on the table, my point is not that $660B would see us achieve the end of poverty in America. My point is that people in poverty are highly incentivized to avail themselves of all the resources available to them. Obtaining and maintaining access to these resources is often so difficult that money gets left on the table. They are unsuccessfully addressing poverty in many instances because of how they are designed, and the incomplete uptake of the program is one measure of that poor design.  It could be that poverty could be solved with $300B/year if only the programs were structured more sensibly.
  • Re: deep poverty estimates - My goal with the $20 line was to help people conceive of how incredibly low the deep poverty line is and to contrast that with the high number of individuals who live below it. I hoped to clarify the methodological differences between the OPL and SPM through the footnote, but I accept the criticism that my phrasing was misleading or unclear. Citing the SPM, I could have instead said, “40.9M people in the US are unable to meet their basic needs, accounting for government transfers, variation in geography and family size, and estimates of costs of living.”

Thanks for reading the piece and for taking the time to leave feedback.

The chart I cited on spending on social protection as a % of GDP was the best available source I could find for this data. If US spending includes programs not specifically targeting poverty alleviation, my assumption is that the other countries listed similarly have non-poverty alleviation programs included, e.g., retirement pensions. If you know of a data source that disputes the point I'm making (the US spends more than the average among wealthy nations on poverty alleviation), I'd welcome it.

I wrote that programs administered through the tax system were 10x more efficient, not effective. Everyone can assess for themselves what feels like an excessive administrative cost to a given program. To me, the 10 to 1 rate is striking. Given the size of these programs, 9% equates to a lot of money, e.g., $5.8B dollars for SSI alone in FY23.