Thursday, February 27, 2020

Proposal to decriminalize polygamy in Utah

Marriage is special, a protected transaction in the U.S. and elsewhere, and that has led to odd situations as social mores change.  Same sex marriage is now legal in every U.S. state, but long before that happened, laws against homosexual sex had already been repealed. So same sex couples were able to live peacefully together before they could marry.*

In much the same way, it is not a crime in most places for unmarried people to live together, and start families.  The phrase 'polyamory' is sometimes applied to romantic relations among multiple adults.  But marriage, no longer defined as a relation between one man and one woman, is still defined as a relation between two people (but now they can also be of the same sex).  That "two-ness" may be starting to change too.

The WSJ has the story:

Utah Lawmakers Seek to Decriminalize Polygamy
Sponsor says bill will help ‘otherwise law-abiding consenting adults who practice polygamy’
By Talal Ansari

"Utah could decriminalize polygamy for the first time in 85 years.

"Lawmakers in the state House are considering legislation that would reclassify bigamy as an infraction in certain circumstances. The Republican-controlled Senate unanimously passed the bill earlier this week.

"More than 60% of Utah’s population belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, colloquially known as the Mormon Church, which practiced polygamy early in its history but banned it more than a century ago.

"Under current state law, bigamy is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Bigamy is a legal term, defined as marrying someone while being legally married to another person.
"Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has said his office only prosecutes bigamy crimes “against those who induce marriage under false pretenses or if there is a collateral malfeasance.”

"Sen. Henderson has said her bill would essentially codify the attorney general’s prevailing practices into law.
"Polygamy was outlawed in the U.S. in the 1880s. The practice was banned by the Mormon Church in 1890, as Utah sought statehood. Utah wouldn’t become a state until 1896, under the condition that it explicitly ban polygamy in its constitution.

"Since then, the state and the Mormon Church have taken a hard stance against polygamy, with the latter excommunicating its members for engaging in plural marriage.

"In 1935, the state criminalized bigamy. Those moves pushed polygamists to the fringes of society and in geographic isolation.

"The law has been challenged over the years. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups declared unconstitutional a key portion of Utah’s polygamy law after it was challenged by stars of the reality-television show “Sister Wives.” An appeals court later dismissed that decision and the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal.

"According to a Gallup poll, acceptance of polygamy appears to be increasing in the U.S. In 2018, 18% of Americans believed marrying more than one person was morally acceptable. In 2003, 7% of those asked took the same stance."

In common usage, I think "bigamy" refers to one person having two spouses (often a man with two wives), but it sounds as if, used as a legal term in Utah, bigamy includes what used to be called polygamy,  the situation of having more than one spouse at the same time. The usual form of polygamy is polygyny, when a man has more that one wife. A less usual form of polygamy is polyandry, when a woman has more than one husband.

All these terms arose when marriage, even multiple marriage, was thought of as between men and women.  We may need new terms for plural marriage now that we recognize same sex marriages.  For example, in a plural marriage of the future, will all the members be married to each other?

This would make legalizing plural marriage potentially more difficult, in terms of defining the legal status of all the spouses, than was legalizing same sex marriage.  In the case of same sex marriage, all the customary rights and obligations of traditional marriage in each state could be extended to same sex couples by a judicial order.  But, e.g. how does divorce work in a plural marriage--is it pairwise, or is it more like dissolving a partnership, or resigning from a partnership?  Can some parts of the marriage persist while other parts are dissolved?

This suggests to me that it may be some time before we see new, plural forms of marriage enshrined in law.  But I wouldn't bet the farm against it in the long term.

(In the meantime, I think we can say that if you support plural marriage, that's big o' you.)

*In a geographically related story, the Salt Lake Tribune reported last week
BYU students celebrate as school removes ‘Homosexual Behavior’ section from its online Honor Code

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Crime and punishment in the sex trade--an ongoing controversy in the U.S.

Two stories in the NY Times speak of the difficulty of regulating the sex trade, which may consist of both voluntary sex workers and victims of trafficking.

Here's a story from October:

In Washington, a Fight to Decriminalize Prostitution Divides Allies

Supporters say a bill being considered by the District of Columbia Council would protect prostitutes in the nation’s capital. Critics say it would be a boon to sex traffickers.  By Timothy Williams, Oct. 17, 2019

"The proposal is dividing the city’s progressive community, pitting some women’s groups against advocates for sex workers. Some prostitutes who have been sex trafficked find themselves on the other side from sex workers who have not been. But all sides agree that prostitution practiced openly would reverberate well beyond the city’s thriving but shadowy sex industry of street prostitution, massage parlors, strip clubs and high-end call girls."

And a more recent story:
Charged With Prostitution, She Went to a Special Court. Did It Help?   By Christina Goldbaum, Jan. 6, 2020

"When New York State created a network of 12 Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, criminal justice professionals hailed it as an innovation. The courts send people into counseling sessions to help them leave the multibillion-dollar sex trade while dismissing their charges and sealing their records.
"But even as courts like these have begun to proliferate nationwide, New York’s own have come under increasing criticism, six years into their operation, that they are not living up to their promise.
"The division has become more pronounced in recent years with more mainstream acceptance of decriminalizing prostitution. The two camps have sparred over whether the goal should be to eliminate all sex trade — and by extension, sex trafficking — or make prostitution a regulated industry.

"While the debate unfolds, there is little question that the efforts have changed how prostitution is policed. The number of prostitution-related arrests in New York in 2019 dropped dramatically from the previous year."

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Pay transparency in the NY Times

An article on the virtues of pay transparency in the NY Times publishes the salaries of all Times editors, reporters and columnists... just kidding.  But it does report on recent research about the effects of pay transparency:

Breaking the Salary Sharing Taboo
Transparency about salaries can make workplaces more equitable, especially for women and people of color. Why are so few Americans willing to open up?
By Susan Dominus

The article mentions several academic studies

Here's one from a forthcoming paper

"About a decade ago, a naturally occurring social experiment took place in Norway that revealed how people react when they are given the opportunity to learn not just a co-worker’s income but the salary of every citizen in the country. Key information from tax returns in Norway has been public since the 19th century, available to anyone willing to wait in line at City Hall and scour tax records. But that understandable interest in other people’s finances became something of a national obsession in 2001, when newspapers first started making the information searchable online. By 2009, one newspaper offered an app — instantly one of the country’s most downloaded — that allowed Facebook users to see leader boards that ranked friends’ salaries from highest to lowest. The app also created maps that allowed users to see the pay of all their neighbors. In 2010, during the first week that the most recent year’s information became available, Norwegians were Googling “skattelister” — tax lists — more than “YouTube,” according to data analyzed by Ricardo Perez-Truglia, now an assistant professor of economics at the U.C.L.A. Anderson School of Management; during that same period, Norwegians were scanning other people’s income more often than they were checking the weather. There were anecdotal reports of students’ being bullied for their families’ poverty, and increasingly, officials became uncomfortable with what the head of the Norwegian Tax Administration called the “peeping Tom” phenomenon (the media called it “tax porn”). In 2014, the law changed so that individuals could still access this public information — but the person whose information they were seeking would know who sought it. Salary searches plummeted, suggesting that Norwegian taboos around discussing pay are not, in the end, all that different from those in America.

Perez-Truglia realized he could use the case of the skattelister to determine the effect of that short window of widespread transparency on well-being, using data from a happiness survey that has been conducted in Norway since 1985. Perez-Truglia found that the newfound accessibility of other people’s pay led to a significant increase in the happiness gap: Higher-income earners were happier than they were before the information was widely available, and lower-income workers were less happy. (There was no change in happiness levels in the survey respondents with more limited access to the internet, further evidence that it was the availability of the skattelister that was having an influence on the survey results.)"

and here's the paper:
[Perez-Truglia, R. (2019). The Effects of Income Transparency on Well-Being: Evidence from a Natural Experiment. American Economic Review, forthcoming. Ungated] [ Slides]]

Here's a link and an earlier post about another of the papers mentioned in the article,
Cullen, Zoë B., and Bobak Pakzad-Hurson. "Equilibrium Effects of Pay Transparency in a Simple Labor Market." Working Paper, April 2019. (Formerly two papers, "Equal Work for Unequal Pay" and "Is Pay Transparency Good?" Selected as Exemplary Applied Modeling Paper at EC '19.)

Friday, August 24, 2018

Monday, February 24, 2020

Good things to do after a kidney transplant: save an NHL game as an Emergency Backup Goalie (EBUG)

It turns out that in the NHL there is an Emergency Backup Goalie (EBUG) who is available to either team should the need arise. In this case, the Toronto EBUG saved the game for the visiting (opposing) team.

Emergency goalie completes journey from kidney transplant to NHL game
"Fifteen years ago, the aspiring NHL goalie had a kidney transplant with his mom Mary as his donor. His career was secondary. He was just glad to be alive.

"I never thought I'd play hockey again at that moment," Ayres said Saturday. "To go from that to what happened tonight is just unbelievable, unreal."

"Not only did Ayres play hockey Saturday, he was the winning goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 6-3 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena."

42-year-old pulled out of crowd to make NHL debut ... and wins game
"David Ayres was sitting in the stands with his wife at Scotiabank Arena when Carolina Hurricanes goalie James Reimer went down with an injury. Ayers, the on-call emergency netminder in Toronto, left his seat and got half dressed into his gear on the off-chance something might happen to Carolina’s second option, Petr Mrazek.
"The next thing the 42-year-old Zamboni driver knew, he was walking down the tunnel and into the spotlight. And not long after, he had an improbable first NHL win. He is the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut.
"Ayres has been the emergency goalie in Toronto for about half the games this season and is available to either team. “You kind of think, ‘Oh well how’s this gonna end up?’” said Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “That’s incredible. That’s why you do this.”

"Ayres was asked what he’ll remember most from the game. “These guys,” he said. “How great they were to me. The crowd in Toronto was unreal. Even though I was on the other team they were so receptive. Every time I made a save I could hear them cheering for me."

HT: Alex Chan

Markets and Coordination by Preston McAfee and Simon Wilkie

A high level overview of market design:

Teaching Old Markets New Tricks (gated, in Project Syndicate, Jan 23, 2020)

(ungated version:  Markets and Coordination)
by Preston McAfee  and Simon Wilkie

"Left: Markets are not delivering the results people need. Let the government run it.
Right: Markets created the giant increase in living standards we enjoy. Leave the market alone.

"Both positions are right – and wrong. Yes, market forces created the vast wealth of the western nations, and China shows what market forces can accomplish in two generations. At the same time, the way markets operate doesn’t necessarily produce the greatest good for the greatest number, and in some cases, such as pollution, laissez faire markets produce terrible outcomes.

"Market Design is a way of having your cake and eating it, too. Market design involves harnessing and directing market forces to produce socially desirable outcomes. It responds to Left by accepting that an unregulated market may produce undesirable outcomes, and adjusts the rules of competition to improve the outcome. It responds to Right by embracing market forces. "

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Exchanges for single earrings, odd shoes

Here's a NY Times story about what to do if you've lost one of a pair of earrings (and don't want to become a pirate...)

The Five Stages of Earring Loss--What to do when one earlobe goes bare. By Nancy Wartik

"In 2012, Ms. Kennedy created a Facebook page called My Lost Earring, inspired by the loss of one of her glass seagull earrings. They were a gift from her husband, but one of them vanished on a long-ago bike ride, a loss she still mourns.
"I put a photo on the My Lost Earring page, which Ms. Kennedy estimates has made at least 200 pairings. Matches can take weeks, months, sometimes years, she cautioned, encouraging me not to abandon hope."

That reminded me of the National Odd Shoe Exchange

"NATIONAL ODD SHOE EXCHANGE was founded in St. Louis, Missouri in 1943. The late Ruth Rubin-Feldman created the organization as a support for polio survivors. Herself a survivor of polio, Ms. Feldman had feet of significantly different sizes. When wartime rationing made buying two sizes even more difficult, she conceived the idea of a service whereby people with similar problems could register their names and sizes. The registry served as a clearing-house that put people with similar interests and tastes, but opposite foot sizes, in touch with one another. Together the new friends could buy footwear and share the cost. No shoes were wasted and they saved money!

"With many veterans coming home from the war as amputees, the service grew and broadened its scope. First Lady Elenor Roosevelt gave NATIONAL ODD SHOE EXCHANGE nationwide recognition for providing such a valuable service."

Bob Montgomery, a transplant surgeon with a (new) heart, in the WSJ

The WSJ has the story:
A Transplant Surgeon Is Operating Again—With a New Heart
Robert Montgomery has resumed performing surgery after receiving a heart transplant from a donor with hepatitis C. But his journey back hasn’t been without complications.

"Robert Montgomery was performing his first kidney transplant as the lead surgeon since his own heart transplant in September of 2018.
"His patient, Daniel Flori, had had a heart transplant about 12 years ago, and the two swapped stories about their experiences before the kidney operation. ... Dr. Montgomery asked about Mr. Flori’s son, who donated a kidney in January to a stranger to set off the fast-moving donor chain that ultimately brought his father a kidney.
"Dr. Montgomery wants to be a role model for transplant patients. Only about 20% of kidney-transplant patients return to work. The numbers for heart-transplant recipients may be even less, he says. Many are on disability when they get a transplant and are afraid to lose their Medicare coverage."

Saturday, February 22, 2020

College Admissions--the musical (casting call)

Here's the casting call, from Playbill. (College admissions is interesting, and so is the labor market for theatrical performances...)

College Admissions Scandal Musical Ranked Now Accepting Submissions
BY DAN MEYER  FEB 21, 2020
 The casting call seeks performers ages 18–early 20s.

"The new musical Ranked, which follows the 2019 college admissions scandal, is now accepting video submissions for an upcoming industry presentation to be filmed by HBO for a documentary.

"The casting call seeks Non-Equity/Non-SAG-AFTRA performers ages 18–early 20s (to play 14–18 years old). To submit, send a video singing 32 bars of a contemporary pop or rock song (i.e. Pasek & Paul, Tom Kitt, Sara Bareilles), headshot and résumé to before February 26 at noon ET.

"Stephanie Klapper Casting will screen the audition tapes prior to an in-person casting call on March 2. Performers must be available for the entire rehearsal and presentation time period, March 16–20. A March 20 industry presentation at The Daryl Roth Theatre will be filmed by HBO."

Reading for marketplace designers from Andreessen Horowitz

Scott Kominers forwards this interesting reading list (which includes a nice summary of market design by him and Tom Eisenmann):

Reading for Marketplace Entrepreneurs

It appears on the Andreessen Horowitz website , which is well worth a look for those interested in starting a marketplace company, or maintaining one.

Friday, February 21, 2020

School choice, centralized and decentralized, in Japan, a century ago, by Tanaka, Narita and Moriguchi

I heard Yusuke Narita present this remarkable paper comparing centralized and decentralized school matching at a recent seminar at Stanford.  It uses a  data set involving both outcomes and rules (rules are data!) of a school choice system for elite schools in Japan from the turn of the last century

Meritocracy and Its Discontent: Long-run Effects of Repeated School Admission Reforms
 TANAKA, Mari  NARITA, Yusuke  MORIGUCHI, Chiaki

Abstract: "We study the impacts of changing school admissions systems in higher education. To do so, we take advantage of the world’s first known implementation of nationally centralized admissions and its subsequent reversals in early twentieth-century Japan. This centralization was designed to make admissions more meritocratic, but we find that meritocracy came at the cost of threatening equal regional access to higher education and career advancement. Specifically, in the short run, the meritocratic centralization led students to make more inter-regional and risk-taking applications. As high ability students were located disproportionately in urban areas, however, increased regional mobility caused urban applicants to supplant rural applicants from higher education. Moreover, these impacts were persistent: four decades later, compared to the decentralized system, the centralized system continued to increase the number of urban-born elites (e.g., top income earners) relative to rural-born ones.

" Our empirical setting is the first known transition from decentralized to nationally centralized school admissions. At the end of the 19th century, to modernize its higher education system, the Japanese government set up elite national schools (high schools or colleges) that served as an exclusive entry point to the most prestigious tertiary education (Yoshino, 2001a,b; Takeuchi, 2011). These schools later produced many of the most influential members of the society, including several Prime Ministers, Nobel Laureates, and founders of global companies like Toyota. Acceptance into these schools was merit-based, using annual entrance examinations. Initially, the government let each school run its own exam and admissions based on exam scores, similar to many of today’s decentralized K-12 and college admissions. The schools typically held exams on the same day so that each applicant could apply for only one school. Similar restrictions on the number of applications exist today in the college admission systems of Italy, Japan, Nigeria, and the UK.

"At the turn of the 20th century, the government introduced a centralized system in order to improve the quality of incoming students. In the new system, applicants were allowed to rank multiple schools in the order of their preference and take a single unified exam.1 Given their preferences and exam scores, each applicant is assigned to a school (or none if unsuccessful) based on a computational algorithm. The algorithm was a mix of the so called Immediate Acceptance (Boston) algorithm and Deferred Acceptance algorithm with a meritocracy principle imposed upfront. To the best of our knowledge, this instance is the first recorded, nation-wide use of any matching algorithm. Furthermore, for reasons detailed below, the government later re-decentralized and re-centralized the system several times, producing multiple natural experiments for studying the consequences of the different systems."