Saturday, May 15, 2021

The importance of very early education, by Gray-Lobe, Pathak, and Walters

 There's more to education than exam scores.  Here's a recent paper on the effects of early preschool education on long term educational outcomes.

The Long-Term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston  by Guthrie Gray-Lobe, Parag Pathak, and Christopher Walters, SEII Discussion Paper #2021.05  ay 2021

ABSTRACT: We use admissions lotteries to estimate the effects of large-scale public preschool in Boston on college-going, college preparation, standardized test scores, and behavioral outcomes. Preschool enrollment boosts college attendance, as well as SAT test-taking and high school graduation. Preschool also decreases several disciplinary measures including juvenile incarceration, but has no detectable impact on state achievement test scores. An analysis of subgroups shows that effects on college enrollment, SAT-taking, and disciplinary outcomes are larger for boys than for girls. Our findings illustrate possibilities for large-scale modern, public preschool and highlight the importance of measuring long-term and non-test score outcomes in evaluating the effectiveness of education programs

Friday, May 14, 2021

Clean needle exchange faces renewed opposition in Indiana and elsewhere

Harm reduction measures in connection with intravenous drug abuse can remain repugnant even where they were successful.

Statnews has the story:

Years ago, a syringe exchange helped end a devastating HIV outbreak. Now it might be forced to close  By Lev Facher

"The Indiana county at the center of a devastating HIV crisis in 2015 may soon close the syringe exchange program widely credited with helping to end its outbreak.

"For public health advocates in Scott County, home to 24,000, the controversy is all too familiar. Six years ago, the county drew national attention for recording roughly 200 HIV cases in a single year, largely driven by injection drug use. Critics have charged that the state government’s slow response and monthslong refusal to permit needle exchanges only made the crisis worse.

"Closing the exchange now, they warn, could lead to a new wave of HIV and hepatitis C cases and increased drug overdoses. Nationally, too, many are worried it could trigger a broader wave of closures. Scott County’s syringe exchange was hailed as a success in 2015 and paved the way for other programs to open across the country. Many fear that shuttering the program, similarly, could inspire activists from coast to coast seeking to close syringe exchanges in their communities.


"The new debate in Indiana comes amid a wave of anti-syringe-exchange activism across the country, including a controversial new law in West Virginia that critics say could force many local programs there to close. West Virginia is experiencing a worst-in-the-nation HIV outbreak not unlike Indiana’s six years ago.


"Despite the reduced rates of transmission, Scott County is still among those most vulnerable to HIV outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It sits at the western edge of the country’s largest HIV hotspot: An area spanning several hundred miles that includes parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee, where much of the HIV transmission is thought to be driven by injection drug use.

"Still, neighbors and local lawmakers there have sought to close the exchange, citing fears it encourages or facilitates drug use and crime (data shows that such programs do not). They have also charged that syringe exchanges lead to hazardous litter, like stray needles — a problem that, in some cases, harm reduction advocates have acknowledged and pledged to help address."

Thursday, May 13, 2021

INFORMS 3rd workshop on market design in July (submission deadline June 1)

 Alex Teytelboym sends me the following announcement:

The INFORMS Section on Auctions and Market Design is organizing its 3rd Workshop on Market Design, traditionally held in conjunction with the ACM Conference on Economics and Computation.  

The two-day workshop with invited speakers and a sequence of submitted papers will be held virtually on July 23-24, 2021.  The submission deadline is June 1, 2021.  Further information is available here.

Keynote speakers

  • Tommy Andersson, Lund University
  • Organizers

    We look forward to your participation and to getting your submissions!

    Martin Bichler, Technical University of Munich

    Sasa Pekec, Duke university

    Alex Teytelboym, University of Oxford

    Wednesday, May 12, 2021

    A glimmer of hope for German kidney transplants: a discussion of kidney exchange

     Axel Ockenfels (who, along with Dorothea Kubler has been at the forefront of advocating for kidney exchange in Germany) forwards me this announcement (translated from German):

    "the German Federal Ministry of Health is organizing a digital symposium on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, from 09:30 to approx. 15:30 on the topic of "Expanding the donor pool for living organ donation - a perspective for Germany?", to which we cordially invite you. Please feel free to forward the invitation to interested parties from your industry.

    "An organ transplant is often the only way to save the lives of seriously ill people or to restore their quality of life. In view of long waiting times for a post-mortem organ donation, the question of living donation sometimes arises. Living organ donation has been permitted in Germany since 1997 within narrow limits and under special conditions. The donor and recipient must be "manifestly close in a special personal bond." However, living donation may be excluded in such cases for medical reasons. In order to increase the chances of organ transplantation for patients who are affected by this, some countries have established so-called kidney exchange programs.

    "The symposium will take a look at various possibilities for extending organ donation: What are the opportunities and risks associated with cross over donation, pooled donation and so-called non-directed living donation? What procedures are necessary to protect donors? These and other questions will be discussed from a medical, legal and ethical perspective with an interdisciplinary audience. 

    "We would be delighted if you could contribute your expertise to the discussion and if we could welcome you at the event on

    "Tuesday, June 29, 2021, 09:30 - approx. 15:30 hrs.


    "welcome to the event. The invitation is explicitly transferable. 

    "If you would like to attend the event, please register by June 28, 2021 at the following link: Event Management Tool link.

    Yours sincerely

    "Joachim Becker

    "Head of the Department of Medical and Professional Law, Prevention

    Translated with (free version)"


    This seems like a potentially very positive first step, despite (or maybe because) of the fact that it seems to be signed by the Ministry of Health's department of prevention... (Leiter der Abteilung Medizin- und Berufsrecht, Prävention)

    A previous post observed that kidney exchange receives popular support in Germany:

    Tuesday, May 11, 2021

    Keeping pilots in the Air Force, in the face of renewed, post-pandemic demand from airlines

     I spent a good deal of time last year working on understanding the internal labor market of the Air Force, and how it interacts with the larger American labor market.

    During the pandemic, with airlines cutting back on flights, it may have seemed as if the problem of retaining pilots had eased. But airline demand for pilots is growing,rand the Air Force will have to think creatively about retention of pilots who are at or near the end of their service obligation.

    Here's a short piece in Defense One, by two Air Force officers:

    The USAF’s Bad Bets on Pilot Retention Show It Needs Outside Help. Service leaders think the same old tactics can reverse a pilot shortage in a resurging economy.  By BRIAN KRUCHKOW and TOBIAS SWITZER

    "Despite the pandemic, the Air Force is still short of pilots, thanks to low retention and strong airline hiring. Before COVID-19 reached the United States, the Air Force had a deficit of more than 2,000 pilots, requiring $15 billion to train replacements. The pandemic temporarily paused airline hiring to the Air Force’s relief, reducing pilot losses, but Covid-19 also hampered pilot training, leaving the overall shortage almost unchanged. Instead of using the reprieve as an opportunity to try bolder retention initiatives, the Air Force recently placed a large wager against airline recovery and renewed airline pilot hiring.


    "Before the pandemic, the Air Force offered retention contracts as short as three years to pilots completing their initial ten-year commitments. Seizing on the collapse of airline hiring in 2020, though, the service changed the terms of its contracts. Gone are three- and four-year contracts; the shortest pilot contract is now five years, which gets you about 70 percent of the maximum retention bonus. To get the full amount authorized by Congress—$35,000 per year—the Air Force requires at least an eight-year commitment. These are hardball terms compared to past years and are a strong bet that airline pilot hiring will be weak for an extended period. 


    "Air Force pilots are poised to leave active duty, not stay, according to our research. Despite the incredibly dire economic and health conditions in 2020, only 51 percent of the Air Force’s eligible pilots signed retention contracts, a small increase from recent years. Of those pilots who signed retention contracts last year, though, we found that 33 percent signed on for only three years. The rest stayed on active duty without service commitments and are now free agents able to depart on short notice. Air Force pilots are keeping their options open and believe airline hiring will return soon, offering better opportunities.  



    Tuesday, December 1, 2020

    Monday, May 10, 2021

    The international market for fonts

     There was a time when printing was a local business, and so fonts had local markets. And the buyers were printers, so even if the ultimate customers had artistic preferences (e.g. newspapers liked to look different from books), the names of the fonts were not a big issue.

    But Microsoft's announcements of new fonts for Word has opened up a window (so to speak) on some considerations that I hadn't thought about.

    CNBC has the story, including an interview with Lucas de Groot, the designer of the previous default font, Calibri:

    Microsoft is rolling out a new default font to 1.2 billion Office users after 14 years — and the designer of the old one is surprised  by Jordan Novet

    "Coming up with the name was not easy. For both of his fonts, Microsoft wanted names that started with the letter C.

    "As de Groot put it in an email, “I had proposed Clas, a Scandinavian first name and associated with ‘class,’ but then the Greek advisor said it meant ‘to fart’ in Greek. Then I proposed Curva or Curvae, which I still like, but then the Cyrillic advisor said it meant ‘prostitute’ in Russian, it is indeed used as a very common curse word.” Microsoft legal workers also checked each possible name to see if it had already been trademarked.

    "The company came up with the name “Calibri,” and when de Groot first heard it, he found it odd. It was similar to Colibri, a genus of hummingbirds. But then Microsoft employees said that it related to calibrating the rasterizer in the company’s ClearType font rendering system."


    I realize that I like fonts with serifs, which for example distinguish my name from the acronym for Artificial Intelligence: Al and AI.

    In a sans-serif font, those are Al and AI.

    Apparently sans-serif fonts were easier to read on low resolution computer screens.

    Sunday, May 9, 2021

    Texas electricity market design: replace ERCOT experts with political appointees

     The Texas Tribune has the story:

    Overhaul of ERCOT board could replace experts with political appointees  By MITCHELL FERMAN

    "AUSTIN, Texas -- During February's deadly winter storm, Gov. Greg Abbott and many state lawmakers quickly criticized the Electric Reliability Council of Texas because several members of its large governing board reside outside of Texas.

    "Many of the out-of-state board members are experts in the electricity field, but resigned following criticism of the agency's oversight of the state's main power grid during the storm that left millions of Texans without electricity for days in freezing temperatures.

    "State lawmakers are now trying to change the way ERCOT is governed by requiring members to live in Texas and giving more board seats to political appointees - changes that experts say may do little to improve the power grid.

    "One former board member who resigned after the storm, Peter Cramton, criticized legislation for politicizing the grid operator's board.

    "These people would be political types without electricity expertise," he told The Texas Tribune.

    The Texa"s House has already approved House Bill 10, which would remove independent outside voices on the ERCOT board and replace them with five political appointees. The governor would appoint three of those people, while the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House would each appoint one. None of the appointees would be required to be electricity experts. The only requirement is that appointees live in Texas."


    Other posts on ERCOT.