Friday, June 14, 2024

Repugnance doesn't establish standing in court: Supreme Court reverses Kacsmaryk on medical abortion

  Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that (for the time being at least) the medical abortion pill mifepristone should remain legal and widely available.  This reverses the decision of judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Federal District court in Amarillo Texas, who ruled that the FDA's authorization of the drug was illegal. (That decision was stayed pending appeal, which has now reversed it.)

The Supreme Court left open the underlying legal issues, but ruled against Judge Kacsmaryk's decision that the plaintiffs in the case, a consortium of medical associations and physicians had standing to bring the case. They say clearly that finding a law repugnant doesn't give a plaintiff standing:

standing screens out plaintiffs who might have only a general legal, moral, ideological, or policy objection to a particular government action.” 

More colorfully, they say

"As Justice Scalia memorably said, Article III [standing] requires a plaintiff to first answer a basic question: “‘What’s it to you?’” A. Scalia, The Doctrine of Standing as an Essential Element of the Separation of Powers, 17 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 881, 882 (1983). For a plaintiff to get in the federal courthouse door and obtain a judicial determination of what the governing law is, the plaintiff cannot be a mere bystander, but instead must have a “personal stake” in the dispute."

Here is the full opinion:


Thursday, June 13, 2024

Do e-cigarettes lead to combustables? (Two NBER papers).

 Two NBER working papers on flavor bans for e-cigarettes, and possible migration to combustables:

The Effect of E-Cigarette Flavor Bans on Tobacco Use. by Chad D. Cotti, Charles J. Courtemanche, Yang Liang, Johanna Catherine Maclean, Erik T. Nesson & Joseph J. Sabia  NBER working paper 32535, DOI 10.3386/w32535,  June 2024

Abstract: Advocates for sales restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes argue that flavors appeal to young people and lead them down a path to nicotine addiction. This study is among the first to examine the effect of state and local restrictions on the sale of flavored electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) products on youth and young adult tobacco use. Using data from the State and National Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, we find that the adoption of an ENDS flavor restriction reduces frequent and everyday youth ENDS use by 1.2 to 2.5 percentage points. Auxiliary analyses of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show similar effects on ENDS use for young adults ages 18-20. However, we also detect evidence of an unintended effect of ENDS flavor restrictions that is especially clear among 18-20-year-olds: inducing substitution to combustible cigarette smoking. Finally, there is no evidence that ENDS flavor restrictions affect ENDS use among adults aged 21 and older or non-tobacco-related health behaviors such as binge drinking and illicit drug use.


Comprehensive E-cigarette Flavor Bans and Tobacco Use among Youth and Adults by Henry Saffer, Selen Ozdogan, Michael Grossman, Daniel L. Dench & Dhaval M. Dave NBER working paper 32534, DOI 10.3386/w32534,  June 2024

Abstract: The vast majority of youth e-cigarette users consume flavored e-cigarettes, raising concerns from public health advocates that flavors may drive youth initiation into and continued use of e-cigarettes. Flavors drew further notice from the public health community following the sudden outbreak of lung injury among vapers in 2019, prompting several states to enact sweeping bans on flavored e-cigarettes. In this study, we examine the effects of these comprehensive bans on e-cigarette use and potential spillovers into other tobacco use by youth, young adults, and adults. We utilize both standard difference-in-differences (DID) and synthetic DID methods, in conjunction with four national data sets. We find evidence that young adults decrease their use of the banned flavored e-cigarettes as well as their overall e-cigarette use, by about two percentage points, while increasing cigarette use. For youth, there is some suggestive evidence of increasing cigarette use, though these results are contaminated by pre-trend differences between treatment and control units. The bans have no effect on e-cigarette and smoking participation among older adults (ages 25+). Our findings suggest that statewide comprehensive flavor bans may have generated an unintended consequence by encouraging substitution towards traditional smoking in some populations.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Nicotine is hard to ban: Juul wins a reprieve from the FDA, and illegal vapes flood the market

 Here are two stories by Jennifer Maloney at the WSJ:

FDA Rescinds Juul Ban, Opening Door for Federal Clearance. E-cigarette maker’s products have stayed on market pending appeal of 2022 ban.. By  Jennifer Maloney

"The Food and Drug Administration rescinded its 2022 ban on Juul Labs’s e-cigarettes. The agency hasn’t yet reached a final determination on whether they can stay on the U.S. market, but the move opened the possibility for federal clearance.

The FDA in 2022 ordered Juul to halt its sales, then stayed the order pending the vaping company’s appeal. The agency said Thursday that it was placing Juul’s products back under scientific review, essentially moving them back to their regulatory status before the ban. 


"Juul’s products remain on the market. The FDA didn’t give a timeline for a final decision on whether they can stay there. Juul is the No. 2 e-cigarette maker in the U.S.

Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers in 2020 were required to submit scientific research to demonstrate that their vaping products exposed users to fewer carcinogens than cigarettes and that the benefit of helping adult smokers switch to a safer alternative outweighed the potential harm of hooking young people on nicotine.


"The FDA ban, though it was quickly put on hold, sent Juul into a financial tailspin. The company narrowly averted bankruptcy. Juul has since submitted next-generation vaping products for FDA review. They aren’t yet for sale in the U.S."


U.S. Pledges Crackdown on Illegal E-CigarettesFDA and DOJ form task force to go after fruity, disposable vapes flooding the market.  By Jennifer Maloney

"Big tobacco companies and their critics agree on at least one thing: The illegal, fruit-flavored, disposable vapes that are popular among teenagers have flooded the U.S. market and federal regulators haven’t done enough to stop it.

"The Food and Drug Administration and Justice Department said Monday they are stepping up enforcement by forming a multiagency task force to go after the illegal distribution and sale of e-cigarettes.

"Disposable vaping devices, almost none of which are authorized for sale by the FDA, represent more than 30% of U.S. e-cigarette sales in stores tracked by Nielsen, according to an analysis by Goldman Sachs. Many of them are imported from China. Breeze Pro and Elfbar, both of which were ordered off the market last year by the FDA, remain the top two disposable e-cigarette brands in the U.S.

"Njoy is the only disposable vaping brand authorized for sale by the FDA." 

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Frans de Waal (1948-2024)

 The eminent primatologist Frans de Waal has passed away. Here's a memoriam from Emory University:

Emory primatologist Frans de Waal remembered for bringing apes ‘a little closer to humans’

I sometimes show the video below about his experiment with monkeys on fairness (and being treated unfairly) to my class on experimental economics (typically when I'm about to talk about the ultimatum game).

"Two capuchins were situated in enclosures next to one another. A researcher would ask them to do a task and if they succeeded give them a treat. The catch was one monkey was always rewarded with a piece of cucumber while the other monkey sometimes got a piece of cucumber and sometimes got a grape — a preferred treat among capuchin monkeys.

"A video de Waal filmed of one of the experiments created a media sensation.

Unequal pay for equal work: When the first monkey gives the researcher a rock, she is rewarded with a cucumber slice. But watch what happens when the first monkey sees the second monkey hand the researcher a rock — and get a much tastier grape instead.

"A monkey that received only cucumber appears perfectly happy until she sees her companion receive a grape. Then her behavior changes. She accepts the next piece of cucumber only to throw it back at the researcher, pounding the surface in front of the enclosure and shaking its Plexiglas walls.

“That video struck home with a lot of people,” Brosnan says. “Who hasn’t felt like that monkey that’s only getting cucumbers? Our research showed something about the evolution of the sense of human fairness.”

Monday, June 10, 2024

INFORMS Section on Auctions and Market Design (AMD)

 Itai Ashlagi and Vahideh Manshadi write:

"Dear colleagues:


We are writing to provide updates about the ongoing activities of the INFORMS Section on Auctions and Market Design (AMD)... 


1) AMD Membership without INFORMS Membership: As you may know, AMD aims to build an inclusive and diverse community interested in Market Design (broadly construed). Toward that goal, we have worked with INFORMS to create the option of joining AMD without INFORMS membership. If you are interested in joining the AMD section, please visit our website and check out the different options to join (as INFORMS member for an additional $10 on top of your INFORMS membership or non-member for only $20 in total per year). This way you will continue to be informed about our market design activities. 


2) Special Issue on Market Design (Deadline September 24): We are pleased to announce that we have co-sponsored a new Special Issue on Mathematics of Market Design at the INFORMS Journal Mathematics of Operations Research. (Special Issue Editors: Saša Pekeč, Martin Bichler, Nicole Immorlica, Scott Kominers, and Paul Milgrom) 


3) Journal Presence at Management Science: the INFORMS Journal  Management Science now has a department titled Market Design, Platform, and Demand Analytics. (Dept. Editors are Itai Ashlagi, Martin Bichler, and Srikanth Jagabathula; the list of AEs includes Paul Milgrom and Al Roth); Management Science is the flagship journal of INFORMS.  


4) AMD Workshop at the ACM EC in July 24: We are pleased to announce the INFORMS Market Design Workshop which will take place in conjunction with the ACM EC Conference at Yale University, July 8-11, 2024. Special thanks to Paul Dutting, John Horton, and Yash Kanoria for co-organizing the workshop. Check the workshop website for the program details.


5) AMD INFORMS Cluster at the Annual Meeting in October 24: We are excited to have organized  ~25 invited sessions on a wide range of topics as part of the AMD cluster at the upcoming INFORMS Annual Meeting (Seattle, Washington, October 20-23, 2024); special thanks to Thodoris Lykouris, Ali Makhdoumi, Pengyu Qian for serving as the cluster co-organizers.

 If you want to learn more about AMD, please check out the AMD website, people involved, and past activities. We'd be excited to have you as part of our growing community of market designers!"

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Recent kidney transplant papers

 Here are two new papers on kidney exchange that caught my eye, and one on incentivizing deceased donation by prioritizing registered donors on the deceased donor waiting list.

This one concerns organizing international kidney exchanges between countries while making sure that each one gets their fair share. (All exchanges are between 2 pairs.)

Benedek, Márton, Péter Biró, Daniel Paulusma, and Xin Ye. "Computing balanced solutions for large international kidney exchange schemes." Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems 38, no. 1 (2024): 1-41.

Abstract: To overcome incompatibility issues, kidney patients may swap their donors. In international kidney exchange programmes (IKEPs), countries merge their national patient–donor pools. We consider a recently introduced credit system. In each round, countries are given an initial “fair” allocation of the total number of kidney transplants. This allocation is adjusted by a credit function yielding a target allocation. The goal is to find a solution that approaches the target allocation as closely as possible, to ensure long-term stability of the international pool. As solutions, we use maximum matchings that lexicographically minimize the country deviations from the target allocation. We perform, for the first time, a computational study for a large number of countries. For the initial allocations we use two easy-to-compute solution concepts, the benefit value and the contribution value, and four classical but hard-to-compute concepts, the Shapley value, nucleolus, Banzhaf value and tau value. By using state-of-the-art software we show that the latter four concepts are now within reach for IKEPs of up to fifteen countries. Our experiments show that using lexicographically minimal maximum matchings instead of ones that only minimize the largest deviation from the target allocation (as previously done) may make an IKEP up to 54% more balanced.

"We consider IKEPs in the setting of European KEPs which are scheduled in rounds, typically once in every three months.


"We first note that the search for an optimal exchange scheme can be done in polynomial time for 2-way exchanges (matchings) but becomes NP-hard as soon as 3-way exchanges are permitted."


Here's a paper that reports simulations on Using deceased donor kidneys to start living donor kidney exchange chains

Verma, Utkarsh, Nayaran Rangaraj, Viswanath Billa, and Deepa Usulumarty. "Long term simulation analysis of deceased donor initiated chains in kidney exchange programs." Health Systems (2023): 1-12.

ABSTRACT: Kidney exchange programs (KEPs) aim to find compatible kidneys for recipients with incompatible donors. Patients without a living donor depend upon deceased donor (DD) donations to get a kidney transplant. In India, a DD donates kidneys directly to a DD wait-list. The idea of initiating an exchange chain starting from a DD kidney is proposed in a few articles (and executed in Italy in 2018), but no mathematical formulation has been given for this merger. We have introduced an integer programming formulation that creates DD-initiated chains, considering both paired exchange registry and DD allocations simultaneously and addressing the overlap issue between the exchange registry and DD wait-list as recipients can register for both registries independently. A long-term simulation study is done to analyse the gain of these DD-initiated chains over time. It suggests that even with small numbers of DDs, these chains can significantly increase potential transplants.


And here's the paper on incentivizing registration to be a deceased donor.

Li, Mengling, and Yohanes E. Riyanto. "Incentivizing Organ Donation Under Different Priority Rules: The Role of Information." Management Science (2024).

Abstract: This paper examines the incentive to register for deceased organ donation under alternative organ allocation priority rules, which may prioritize registered donors and/or patients with higher valuations for organ transplantation. Specifically, the donor priority rule grants higher priority on the organ waiting list to those who have previously registered as donors. The dual-incentive priority rules allocate organs based on donor status, followed by individual valuations within the same donor status, or vice versa. Both theoretical and experimental results suggest that the efficacy of the donor priority rule and the dual-incentive priority rules critically depends on the information environment. When organ transplantation valuations are unobservable prior to making donation decisions, the hybrid dual-incentive rules generate higher donation rates. In contrast, if valuations are observable, the dual-incentive priority rules create unbalanced incentives between high- and low-value agents, potentially undermining the efficacy of the hybrid dual-incentive rules in increasing overall donation rates.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

The ethics of field experiments in Economics, in the Financial Times

 The Financial Times has a column about the recent twitter (X) discussion concerning our paper Social Media and Job Market Success: A Field Experiment on Twitter, by Jingyi Qiu, Yan Chen, Alain Cohn, and Alvin E. Roth.

That twitter-up concerned whether it is ethical to do field experiments in economics, in which some argued that the benefits that might accrue to treated market participants may disadvantage untreated market participants, including those not involved in the experiment and from whom consent was not obtained. (The FT column has a paragraph in which Douglas MacKay*, a bio-ethicist from UNC considers ethical issues that might arise if the market "is a zero sum competition.") 

Here's the FT article, and the snippet that covers our paper.

When is it OK for economists to experiment on people? A recent study has raised ethical questions about research.  by Soumaya Keynes, Financial Times.

"While most economic debates are about as spicy as boiled potatoes, others generate a bit more heat. A recent stir fell into the second category, in response to a new study of junior academics angling for jobs in economics. 


"Alvin Roth, one of the authors of that experiment, says: “I can’t imagine economists thinking of a market as zero sum.” Perhaps a social media post could alert someone to a candidate so impressive that they persuade their university to make an extra position available. He points out that plenty of people share papers on social media, adding: “It seems to me that things that aren’t unethical to do shouldn’t be unethical to study to find out their effect.”


Here's my earlier post, of the paper, with some thoughts on the ethics of experimenting.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

*And here is an interesting looking bibliography, including some papers by economists.
Prepared and Managed by Emma Cohn and Douglas MacKay