Sunday, February 17, 2019

Refugees and asylum seekers, in three charts

From the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,

Where Do Most Refugees Come From, and Where Do They Go?
 By Subhayu Bandyopadhyay, and Asha Bharadwaj,

Saturday, February 16, 2019

More on the immigration "emergency": U.S. undocumented population continues to fall

The latest  Journal on Migration and Human Security has an article whose title conveys a lot of information.  For example, most undocumented residents didn't cross the border illegally.

US Undocumented Population Continued to Fall from 2016 to 2017 and Visa Overstays Significantly Exceeded Illegal Crossings for the Seventh Consecutive Year  by Robert Warren

This article presents estimates of the US undocumented population for 2017 derived by the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS). It focuses on the steep decline in the undocumented population from Mexico since 2010. While the president has focused the nation’s attention on the border wall, half a million[1] US undocumented residents from Mexico left[2] the undocumented population in 2016 alone, more than three times the number that arrived that year, leading to an overall decrease of nearly 400,000 undocumented residents from Mexico from 2016 to 2017. From 2010 to 2017, the undocumented population from Mexico fell by a remarkable 1.3 million.
For the past 10 years, the primary mode of entry for the undocumented population has been to overstay temporary visas. This article provides estimates of the number of noncitizens who overstayed temporary visas and those who entered without inspection (EWIs) in 2016 by the top five countries of origin.
Summary of Findings
  • The US undocumented population from Mexico fell by almost 400,000 in 2017.
  • In 2017, for the first time, the population from Mexico constituted less than one half of the total undocumented population.
  • Since 2010, the undocumented population from Mexico has declined by 1.3 million.
  • In California, the undocumented population from Mexico has declined by 26 percent since 2010, falling from 2.0 to 1.5 million; it also dropped by 50 percent in Alabama, and by one third in Georgia, New York, and New Mexico.
  • The undocumented population from Venezuela grew rapidly after 2013, increasing from 60,000 to 145,000 in just four years.
  • Visa overstays have significantly exceeded illegal border crossings during each of the last seven years.
  • Mexico was the leading country for overstays in 2017, with about twice as many as India or China.
The estimates presented here were derived by CMS based on information collected in the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey (ACS). 
See earlier, same author:

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Friday, February 15, 2019

Commercial surrogacy to be legalized in New York?

Some stories on the current proposals and the controversy involved.

From the NY Post:

Cuomo proposes law to end ban on surrogate moms

"Gov. Cuomo is proposing a new law that will lift the ban on surrogacy contracts — enabling New Yorkers for the first time to pay a woman to have a baby for them through in-vitro fertilization.
The ban has been in place since 1992.
“New York’s antiquated laws frankly are discriminatory against all couples struggling with fertility, same sex or otherwise” Cuomo said in a statement to The Post."
From the National Catholic Register:
Cuomo Proposal Would Lift New York’s Ban on Surrogacy Contracts --Under current law, surrogacy contracts in the state are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or by a felony charge.
"Just days after expanding legal abortion up to the point of birth, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a law that would lift the ban on surrogacy contracts in the state of New York.
If passed, the law would allow New Yorkers to pay a woman to carry to term a child conceived through in vitro fertilization. It would not allow a surrogate mother to use her own eggs (and therefore be related biologically to the child).
"Cuomo’s proposal, called the Child-Parent Security Act, is included in the governor’s executive budget plan for the state and is something his administration has been considering since at least 2015, according to the Post.  
When Cuomo first floated the idea, Jennifer Lahl of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, slammed surrogacy for treating women “like breeding animals.”
“We try to get a mother and a baby to bond,” Lahl told the Post in 2015. “We’re against ripping the baby from the mother the moment he leaves the womb. It’s not good for the child.”
Surrogacy laws vary widely throughout the United States. Besides New York, only three other states explicitly ban all surrogacy contracts: Nebraska, Michigan, and Arizona. Many other states have restrictions on surrogacy agreements and treat the surrogacy process similarly to adoption, requiring court appearances, home studies and a window for the birth mother to change her mind after the baby is born.
Surrogate mothers are typically paid between $30,000 and $50,000 for carrying a child to term, depending upon the state and the contract.  
"Kathleen Gallagher, the New York Catholic Conference director of pro-life activities, told the Post that she found the New York proposal “appalling.”
“This is the buying and selling of children and the exploitation of women. There are going to be poor women exploited by wealthy couples,” she said.
The Catholic Church denounced the practice of surrogacy in the 1987 document Donum Vitae, in which the Vatican stated that surrogacy “represents an objective failure to meet the obligations of maternal love,” calling it a “detriment” to the family and the dignity of the human person by divorcing the “physical, psychological and moral elements which constitute those families.”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Matching story for Valentine's day--BBC

Valentine's Day sparks a demand not just for love, but also for stories about marriage as a matching market.  This year I was among those interviewed by the BBC.  Below are two links:  you can listen to the interviews, or read a summary.

First, the interviews: They go for 18 minutes, and are easy listening.  I'm interviewed third, beginning just before minute 10 and going to about minute 14.   (I didn't see a way to embed it) :

Rational Partner Choice: "Should your head trump your heart when seeking lifelong love? We ask an economist, a romantic novelist and a hyper-rationalist businessman this Valentine's Day challenge."

(There actually are 4 interviews, the fourth is with the wife of the businessman, Ed Conard: they've been happily married for 20 years.)

The written summary has me as the middle of three views on the subject (the headline below reflects the first of the views they considered, with marriage modeled as an optimal stopping problem).

Forget love: This is how to find your perfect partner  By Justin Rowlatt

Here's what they say about their conversation with me:

"Mr Conard's approach to choosing a wife is a well-established method for buying things like a new place to live but, says Nobel Prize winning economist Alvin Roth, spouses aren't like houses: marriage is a market without prices.
"He agrees that it is important to meet quite a few possible partners before you take the plunge - "don't marry the first person you meet", he warns.

"You've also got to have realistic expectations: "the first thing a matrimonial agency has to do is persuade clients they aren't a 10."

"But, he says, you can do too much calibrating and evaluating. Choosing a partner is a two-way thing: it is only when you are serious about marriage that potential partners will take you seriously.

"Part of being well matched is the history you share and this starts when you first meet", Prof Roth says, "so investing in that history improves the quality of that match."
And here are my Valentine's Day blog posts to date.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Market design through machine learning: David Parkes

If I were in Boston I'd go to hear David Parkes speak today about

Optimal Economic Design through Deep Learning

Abstract: Designing an auction that maximizes expected revenue is a major open problem in economics. Despite significant effort, only the single-item case is fully understood. We ask whether the tools of deep learning can be used to make progress. We show that multi-layer neural networks can learn essentially optimal auction designs for the few problems that have been solved analytically, and can be used to design auctions for poorly understood problems, including settings with multiple items and budget constraints. I will also overview applications to other problems of optimal economic design, and discuss the broader implications of this work. Joint work with Paul Duetting (London School of Economics), Zhe Feng (Harvard University), Noah Golowich (Harvard University), Harikrishna Narasimhan (Harvard -> Google), and Sai Srivatsa (Harvard University). Working paper:

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The new market for (and marketing of) nicotine--Robert Jackler (followed by the CDC)

My colleague Rob Jackler has been investigating the marketing of nicotine delivered through (non-burning) e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without combustion products, by "vaping." Apparently nicotine is highly addictive, and the marketing is taking aim at very young people, including  "stealth" delivery systems designed to camouflage the act of vaping.

Here's a Stanford Medicine interview, published yesterday:
Robert Jackler says Juul spurs 'nicotine arms race'

Here's a figure from the paper "Nicotine arms race: JUUL and the high-nicotine product market, " by Robert K Jackler, Divya Ramamurthi, in the Journal Tobacco Control.

 And here's a figure from the article
"JUUL and other stealth vaporisers: hiding the habit from parents and teachers," by Divya Ramamurthi, Cindy Chau, Robert K Jackler, in Tobacco Control

In related news, also published yesterday, here's a press release from the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
4.9 million middle and high school students used tobacco products in 2018

"About 4.9 million middle and high school students were current users (used in the past 30 days) of some type of tobacco product in 2018, up from 3.6 million in 2017. This increase—driven by a surge in e-cigarette use—erased past progress in reducing youth tobacco product use, according to a new Vital Signs report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"More than 1 in 4 (27.1%) high school students and about 1 in 14 (7.2%) middle school students currently used a tobacco product in 2018. For the fifth year in a row, e-cigarettes (20.8%) were the most commonly used tobacco product among high schoolers...
"This Vital Signs report is based on data from the 2011–2018 National Youth Tobacco Surveys analyzed by CDC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI)."

Here's a figure from the Vital Signs report:

Monday, February 11, 2019

Computational and Experimental Economics Conference in Barcelona

Here's the call for papers, by Feb 28:
Computational and Experimental Economics

The workshop will run for 2 days and will take place on June 10-11, 2019 in Barcelona. In this two days’ workshop we want to bring together researchers working in two quite separate fields, computational economics and experimental economics, which yet have seen a steady increase of fruitful interaction in the recent years ( see e.g. The Handbook of Computational Economics, Heterogenous Agents, Edited by Cars Hommes, Blake LeBaron, Volume 4, 2018, Elsevier.).
Topics include the understanding of the emergent dynamic properties of economic models, some of which are too complex to solve analytically. However, human behavior can often be captured by relatively simple heuristics. While computational economics departs from simulations to derive their models, experimental economics uses human behavior and then often simulation techniques to develop descriptive models of such behavior. Such models include Agent Based Modeling (ABM), models of learning based on genetic algorithm, Reinforcement models, and other learning or cognitive models.

Keynote Speakers

Workshop organizers

Digital Economy and Inclusive Growth--report from the Luohan Academy

Here's an initial report from the Luohan Academy:

 Digital Technology and Inclusive Growth--Executive Summary

From the mission statement:
"Social scientists in general, including economists, must therefore collaborate to help societies adapt smoothly and fairly to the digital revolution. Two important objectives of the academic community are first, to understand business models and market structures that enable growth and progress, and second, to identify the impact of digitization on individual and social welfare. So far the rapidly increasing scale of digitization has not been followed by a corresponding increase in theoretically grounded empirical research on the rationales,  consequences, and policies of digitization. A well-organized research community could greatly facilitate and speed up such research efforts."

And, as the report makes clear, China is a good place to study ecommerce: