Friday, January 24, 2020

Sam Trejo on non-directed kidney donation (in the LA Times)

It's always good to hear from former students.

Sam Trejo writes:

"Hi Dr. Roth,
I'm PhD student in the GSE who took your Behavioral class a couple years back; you probably don't remember me, I didn't talk very much. Anyways, I donated my kidney last month to start a chain and wrote about it here. Just wanted to let you know of a concrete way that your market design work is making an impact!


The op-ed he linked to in the LA Times is called:
By SAM TREJO, JAN. 19, 2020 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Conference on Mechanism design for vulnerable populations in April at Pitt--call for papers

Here's the call for papers:

Call for papers: 2020 NSF/CEME Decentralization Conference
Mechanism Design for Vulnerable Populations
April 17-19, 2020

Center for Analytical Approaches to Social Innovation (CAASI)
Graduate School of Public and International A airs
University of Pittsburgh

Submission Deadline: Friday, January 31th, 2020

The goal of this conference is to apply and extend mechanism design to the practical needs of institutions that serve vulnerable populations. These populations pose conceptual and technical challenges for the designer due to the high stakes decision making environments, complex constraints on agents' action space, and the cumulative effects of disadvantaged participation in previous mechanisms. We welcome both theoretical and empirical approaches.

The field of mechanism design has played a significant role in designing public sector allocative mechanisms, making important contributions to the FCC spectrum auctions, the creation of electricity markets, school matching algorithms, and more. Recently, scholars have begun to apply the tools of mechanism design towards institutions that serve vulnerable populations such as the construction of social safety nets. This endeavour will be challenging. Whether it is families facing housing insecurity, returning veterans, or the previously incarcerated, the daily struggles of these individuals are often unobserved by the designer, making it difficult to form accurate assumptions about agent types, action spaces, or perceptions of the mechanism. For vulnerable populations, small behavioral deviations or changes in allocations can result in dramatic differences, e.g. a missed car payment resulting in a job loss. In addition, marginalization is often the cumulative outcome of a sequence of mechanisms: the housing market affecting a child's school choice, which constrains his options in the job market, which in turn affects his outcome in the criminal justice system.

For the conference, we seek theoretical and empirical papers that try to bridge the gap between mechanism design theory and the needs of vulnerable population. Topics could include (but are not limited to):
* General theoretical papers on behavioral mechanism design and robust mechanism design
* Social work: service referral, adoption / foster care, transition to workforce, substance abuse treatments, mentoring programs
* Basic needs: low-income housing, housing integration by income and identity, food banks
* Education (school matching), transportation (route selection, transport markets) and criminal justice
* Public goods, participatory democracy and budgeting mechanisms

Submissions will be accepted until Friday, January 31th, 2020. Full papers are preferred, but extended abstracts will also be considered. Please email all submissions to with the subject line Decentralization Submission. We will announce the conference program by Friday, February 14, 2020. All participants should confirm their attendance by Friday February 21, 2020.

Sera Linardi (University of Pittsburgh)
Jinyong Jeong (University of Pittsburgh)
Scott E. Page (University of Michigan)

Program Committee:
Rediet Abebe (Harvard University)
Yan Chen (University of Michigan)
Selman Erol (Carnegie Mellon University)
Osea Giuntella (University of Pittsburgh)
Daniel Jones (University of Pittsburgh)
John Ledyard (California Institute of Technology)
Irene Lo (Stanford University)
Adam Kapor (Princeton University)
Luca Rigotti (University of Pittsburgh)
Utku Unver (Boston College)
Richard Van Weelden (University of Pittsburgh)
M. Bumin Yenmez (Boston College)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Alex Chan on deceased organ donation policy, in JAMA

Alex Chan comments on an earlier article in JAMA:
US Organ Donation Policy
Alex Chan, January 21, 2020

"To the Editor Ms Glazier and Mr Mone touted the success of the current opt-in organ donation system and argued for focusing on increasing registered donors to 75% of the adult population.1 A challenge is the intrinsic difficulty of such a task: more coordinated promotional efforts and new incentives like giving registered donors priority on organ waiting lists would likely be required.

"Even if such an increase in donor registration is possible, another challenge is the extent to which transplant centers recover organs from registered donors. Although the number of registered donors is more than half of the US population, only 36.3% of possible donors become actual donors.2 This loss of approximately one-third of registered donors suggests that obstacles to recovery of organs, such as family objection, transplant center rejections of imperfect organs, and OPO performance, are pivotal. Anecdotal evidence suggests that rejections of imperfect organs account for approximately 10% to 20%,2 leaving 10% to 20% of the loss still unaccounted for. Family consent or its lack may be a big part of the gap.
"Furthermore, 2 of the 3 states with the highest donor registration rates (Montana, 93%; Washington, 89%) have lower-than-average actual donation rates,1,2 but states like Nevada and Pennsylvania with registration rates lower than 50% have actual donation rates much higher than the national average.2 This suggests that registration is only part of the solution, and the ability of OPOs to obtain family consent and convert registrations into donations can bound the effectiveness of the current system."

Here's the earlier post, about the article on which Alex is commenting

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Sixth Marketplace Innovation Workshop (MIW) Columbia University, June 2-3, 2020

Sixth Marketplace Innovation Workshop (MIW)

Columbia University, New York, NY

June 2-3, 2020


Itai Ashlagi, Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University
Omar Besbes, Columbia Business School, Columbia University
Ilan Lobel, Stern School of Business, New York University
Gabriel Weintraub, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University


Markets are an ancient institution for matching the supply for a good or service with its demand. Physical markets were typically slow to evolve, with simple institutions governing trade, and trading partners generally facing a daunting challenge in finding the “right” partner. The information technology revolution, however, has generated a sea of change in how markets function: now, markets are typically complex platforms, with a range of mechanisms involved in facilitating matches among participants. Recent trends point to an unprecedented level of control over the design, implementation, and operation of markets: more than ever before, we are able to engineer the platforms governing transactions among market participants. As a consequence, market operators or platforms can control a host of variables such as pricing, liquidity, visibility, information revelation, terms of trade, and transaction fees. On its part, given these variables, market participants often face complex problems when optimizing their own decisions. In the supply side such decisions may include the assortment of products to offer and their price structure, while in the demand side they may include how much to bid for different goods and what feedback to offer about past purchasing experiences. The decisions made by the platform and the market participants interact, sometimes in intricate and subtle ways, to determine market outcomes.
In this workshop we seek work that improves our understanding of these markets, both from the perspective of the market operator and the market participants. With respect to the former we are particularly interested in work that derives useful insights on how to design these markets, taking into account their operational details and engineering and technological constraints. With respect to the market participants, we seek for work that introduces novel approaches to optimize their decisions and improves our understanding of their interactions within the market. We look for a mix of approaches including modeling, theoretical, and empirical, using a wide range of tools drawn from operations management, game theory, auctions and mechanism design, optimization, stochastic modeling, revenue management, econometrics, or statistics.
The list of markets to be studied includes but it is not restricted to:
  • Online marketplaces, such as eBay, Etsy, etc.
  • Internet advertising, including sponsored search and display ad exchanges
  • Sharing economy markets, such as Uber/Lyft, AirBnb, etc.
  • Online labor markets, such as Amazon mTurk, Upwork, etc.
  • Procurement markets, such as technology-enabled government procurement
  • Health care exchanges
  • Financial exchanges
The workshop will begin on the morning of June 2nd and continue through the afternoon of June 3rd.

Plenary speakers

The workshop will have several invited distinguished plenary speakers from academia and industry, including:
  • Jun Li (University of Michigan)
  • Vahideh Manshadi (Yale University)
  • Tim Roughgarden (Columbia University)
  • Daniela Saban (Stanford University)
  • Amin Saberi (Stanford University)
  • Glenn Weyl (Microsoft Research)

Conference on Mechanism and Institution Design, June 2020, at Alpen-Adria-University of Klagenfurt/Celovec, Austria.

Conference on Mechanism and Institution Design 2020 (CMID20)

Starts 11 Jun 2020, 08:00
Ends 13 Jun 2020, 20:00
AAU Klagenfurt
HS C, Z.1.08, Z.1.09, N.1.43, B02.2.05, B02.2.13
Universitaetsstr. 65-67
9020 Klagenfurt
Paul Schweinzer

Paper submission is through email to

Our 2020 conference will take place on Thursday-Saturday, 11th-13th June 2020, at the Department of Economics, Alpen-Adria-University of Klagenfurt/Celovec, Austria.

The University is situated a few hundred meters from Lake Wörthersee, well-connected to both Slovenia and Italy across the Karawanken mountain range and can be easily reached from Vienna, Ljubljana, and Graz.

The confirmed keynote speakers are:

Pierpaolo Battigalli, Bocconi University
Johannes Hörner, Yale University
Benny Moldovanu, University of Bonn 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Recommender systems behaving badly: YouTube and Instagram

Why are readers drawn to sensationalist stories?  Why do content providers produce them?  It likely has something to do with the recommender systems that direct readers' attention to certain stories more than to others.

Time magazine has the YouTube story:

YouTube Has Been 'Actively Promoting' Videos Spreading Climate Denialism, According to New Report

"YouTube has been “actively promoting” videos containing misinformation about climate change, a report released Thursday by campaign group Avaaz claims, despite recent policy changes by the platform intended to drive users away from harmful content and conspiracy theories.
"The “up next” feature dictates what users watch for 70% of the time they spend on YouTube. The exact make-up of the YouTube algorithm that drives recommendations, designed to keep users on the platform for as long as possible, is a closely guarded secret. Experts say the algorithm appears to have learned that radical or outrageous content is more likely to engage viewers.Avaaz examined 5,537 videos retrieved by the search terms “climate change,” global warming” and “climate manipulation,” and then the videos most likely to be suggested next by YouTube’s “up next” sidebar. For each of those search terms respectively, 8%, 16% and 21% of the top 100 related videos included by YouTube in the “up-next” feature contained information that goes against the scientific consensus on climate change – such as denying climate change is taking place, or claiming that human activity is not a cause of climate change. Avaaz claims this promotion process means YouTube is helping to spread climate denialism."
"The “up next” feature dictates what users watch for 70% of the time they spend on YouTube. The exact make-up of the YouTube algorithm that drives recommendations, designed to keep users on the platform for as long as possible, is a closely guarded secret. Experts say the algorithm appears to have learned that radical or outrageous content is more likely to engage viewers.

The NY Times has the Instagram story
This Is the Guy Who’s Taking Away the Likes
"Likes are the social media currency undergirding an entire influencer economy, inspiring a million Kardashian wannabes and giving many of us regular people daily endorphin hits. But lately, Mr. Mosseri has been concerned about the unanticipated consequences of Instagram as approval arbiter.
"Mr. Mosseri knows something about dealing with dystopian tech fallout. He came to Instagram in October 2018 after years overseeing the Facebook News Feed, an unwitting engine of fake news, inflammatory rhetoric and disinformation. He wants to avoid similar pitfalls at Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Anat Admati on Economics and Politics

The title of Anat Admati's essay makes an abstract unnecessary. She's thinking of financial economics, but much of what she says will be of interest to market designers as well.

There is No Economics without Politics
Every economic model is built on political assumptions
By Anat Admati

"...historian Adam Tooze laments the narrowness of economics. He quotes economist Abba Lerner, who famously said in 1972: “Economics has gained the title Queen of the Social Sciences by choosing solved political problems as its domain.”