Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Frequencies of medically assisted death, in jurisdictions where it is legal

From the Lancet:
Regulation of assisted suicide limits the number of assisted deaths
Gian Domenico Borasio, Ralf J Jox, Claudia Gamondi
Published:February 20, 2019

"Several countries and US states have recently legalised euthanasia, assisted suicide, or both, including Canada and California, USA. In 2017, more than 13 000 patients died through either method of assisted death in countries where these practices are permitted. Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legal in the Netherlands and Belgium since 2002, whereas assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since 1918 and in Oregon, USA, since 1997.

"In assisted suicide, patients take the lethal drug themselves, whereas doctors administer the drug in euthanasia. In 2012, this appeared to be a main reason for the higher frequency of assisted deaths in the Netherlands and Belgium, compared with Oregon and Switzerland. Yet data from the past 5 years suggest that the lack of legislation in Switzerland could also explain the higher frequency of assisted suicide, particularly since an increasing number of patients without terminal illness obtain permission for assisted suicide in Switzerland. By contrast, the lower frequency in Oregon might be explained by the requirement of a maximum life expectancy of 6 months and by the requirement that patients obtain a lethal dose from the pharmacy for auto-administration. On average, 36% of these patients in Oregon end up not using the lethal drug and die of their illness"

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Matching civil servants to positions (and career tracks) in India

Stanford's Ashutosh Thakur writes about civil service matching in India:
Rethinking cadre allocation procedures in civil services

 "The allocation procedure of All-India Services’ officers to states is an important aspect of personnel administration in the public sector. This article shows that a change in allocation policy in 2008 resulted in lower quality officers being systematically assigned to disadvantaged states. It examines the causes of these imbalances and impact on State capacity and development outcomes, and explores alternate mechanisms."

Monday, March 18, 2019

Alan Krueger (1960-2019)

I was shaken today by the news of Alan Krueger's death:

Alan B. Krueger, Economic Aide to Clinton and Obama, Is Dead at 58

He was a leading light in the study of labor markets (from the effects of minimum wage, to the micro and macro returns of education).  He was also a leading policy architect, not least in his service as the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama.  (I interacted with him briefly when he was in that role, on matters concerning transplantation policy.)

I'm reminded that many Americans of my generation encountered the poem Richard Corey as part of the elementary school curriculum.

Palgiarism detection, student data, and Ed Tech: the purchase of Turnitin

Here's a story that caught my eye in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, about the purchase of Turnitin, known so far primarily for plagiarism detection software:

Why a Plagiarism-Detection Company Is Now a Billion-Dollar Business

"Stamping out student plagiarism is big business. How big? $1.735 billion, to be exact. That’s the price that Advance, a privately held media, communications, and technology company, will pay to purchase Turnitin, the 800-pound gorilla of plagiarism-detection services.
"While its roots are in plagiarism detection, Turnitin actually has a broader portfolio. For example, it owns Gradescope, which offers AI-assisted grading tools, and Lightside Labs, which uses machine learning to provide feedback on students’ writing.

Chris Caren, chief executive of Turnitin, said the company’s next step is to become a platform for colleges and high schools to submit all types of student assignments, digital or on paper. It would then use AI to help instructors review that work to, among other things, spot at-risk students and devise remediation plans. The company is also developing Turnitin’s software to branch out into the STEM fields and detect plagiarism in coding, for example. In other words, it hopes to become a one-stop shop for all sorts of tech-driven teaching services."

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Congratulations to Ed Glaeser, Scott Kominers, Mike Luca and Nikhil Naik (EI best paper award)

Congratulations to the authors of this fine paper, published in Economic Inquiry.

2018 Best EI Article Award Announced!
LIMITATIONS OF IMPROVED MEASURES OF URBAN LIFE -- Volume 56, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages: 114-137
by Edward L. Glaeser, Scott Duke Kominers, Michael Luca, and Nikhil Naik

"New, “big data” sources allow measurement of city characteristics and outcome variables at higher collection frequencies and more granular geographic scales than ever before. However, big data will not solve large urban social science questions on its own. Big urban data has the most value for the study of cities when it allows measurement of the previously opaque, or when it can be coupled with exogenous shocks to people or place. We describe a number of new urban data sources and illustrate how they can be used to improve the study and function of cities. We first show how Google Street View images can be used to predict income in New York City, suggesting that similar imagery data can be used to map wealth and poverty in previously unmeasured areas of the developing world. We then discuss how survey techniques can be improved to better measure willingness to pay for urban amenities. Finally, we explain how Internet data is being used to improve the quality of city services."

The paper's publication history says something about publishing, on line versus in print, at least in Economics.

Publication History
  • 27 November 2017
  • 12 July 2016
  • 23 February 2016
  • 23 November 2015

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Matching refugees to host country locations

My political science colleagues at Stanford have been thinking fruitfully about how to match refugees to locations in the countries to which they have been granted asylum:

Matching Refugees to Host Country LocationsBased on Preferences and Outcomes
∗ Avidit Acharya† Kirk Bansak‡ Jens Hainmueller§ February 21, 2019

Abstract: Facilitating the integration of refugees has become a major policy challenge in many host countries in the context of the global displacement crisis. One of the first policy decisions host countries make in the resettlement process is the assignment of refugees to locations within the country. We develop a mechanism to match refugees to locations in a way that takes into account their expected integration outcomes and their preferences over where to be settled. Our proposal is based on a priority mechanism that allows the government first to specify a threshold g for the minimum level of expected integration success that should be achieved. Refugees are then matched to locations based on their preferences subject to meeting the government’s specified threshold. The mechanism is both strategy-proof and constrained efficient in that it always generates a matching that is not Pareto dominated by any other matching that respects the government’s threshold. We demonstrate our approach using simulations and a real-world application to refugee data from the United States.
Here's an earlier paper by a group including some of the same authors
 2018 Jan 19;359(6373):325-329. doi: 10.1126/science.aao4408.

Improving refugee integration through data-driven algorithmic assignment.


Developed democracies are settling an increased number of refugees, many of whom face challenges integrating into host societies. We developed a flexible data-driven algorithm that assigns refugees across resettlement locations to improve integration outcomes. The algorithm uses a combination of supervised machine learning and optimal matching to discover and leverage synergies between refugee characteristics and resettlement sites. The algorithm was tested on historical registry data from two countries with different assignment regimes and refugee populations, the United States and Switzerland. Our approach led to gains of roughly 40 to 70%, on average, in refugees' employment outcomes relative to current assignment practices. This approach can provide governments with a practical and cost-efficient policy tool that can be immediately implemented within existing institutional structures.

Friday, March 15, 2019

NRMP Match Day, 2019

Today is match day, when imminent medical grads find out where they'll be starting residencies in July.

Here's the NRMP's press release:
Thousands Of Resident Physician Applicants Celebrate NRMP Match Results
2019 Main Residency Match is largest on record with 44,600 registered applicants and more than 35,000 positions offered

Here are some data tables, including this one on couples:

Here's an article in Stat reflecting on some current issues of marketplace maintenence, related to what certainly seems to have become excessive pre-match interviewing:

Ideas for easing medical students’ Match Day ‘frenzy’

"The National Residency Matching Program is an admirable invention. Now more than 30 years old, it is the system through which medical students get their first paid, professional positions. It corrected past abuses that took advantage of students, often pressuring them to accept binding offers within 24 hours of a residency interview. The Match is sufficiently noteworthy that its creator, Alvin Ross, won a Nobel Prize in economics for his work on matching theory. His algorithm continues to place half of U.S. medical school graduates in their first-choice programs. Other professions and selection processes could be improved by using a similar matching system.
Yet the Match and what leads up to it are having growing pains. Medical students are applying to increasing numbers of residency programs, sometimes to all of the programs in a field. Residency program directors are flooded with applications, and have trouble identifying which students are truly interested.
"Otolaryngology (also known as ear, nose, and throat) offers a telling illustration of this problem, and a potential solution that failed. In 2010, the average student interested in an otolaryngology residency applied to 47 programs, and the average residency program received 200 applications from U.S. medical students — to fill just two to six positions. By 2015, this increased to 64 applications per student and 275 applications per program.
"The program directors attempted to exert some control over application inflation by asking students to write a paragraph about their interest in the program they were applying for. This reduced applications, but also backfired. In 2017, the number of applications fell back to 200 per program, but 10 programsfailed to get the number of residents they needed. The otolaryngology program directors removed the supplemental requirement and applications jumped back up to 278.
"The Match was once a brilliant solution that everyone in medicine was proud of. There are still lessons to be learned from it for other selection processes, including undergraduate admissions. But if we — students, advising deans, and residency program directors — do not come together and work on solutions, we risk losing the Match’s great many advantages."

Ongoing controversies about same sex marriage

Relatively recent stories, about the Methodist world and the Arab world remind us that there remains considerable active repugnance to same sex marriage.

From the Washington Post:

Reeling from contentious LGBT vote, some Methodists pledge to fight while others mull leaving

"Dumbarton United Methodist Church is the oldest United Methodist congregation in Washington, D.C., dating almost 200 years before the United Methodist denomination was created — even before the United States was created.

"On Wednesday, when the church’s minister, the Rev. Mary Kay Totty, traveled back to Washington from a groundbreaking meeting in St. Louis, where the denomination decided to uphold its opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy, she said she thought that centuries-old history might be at a breaking point.

“To think of not being Methodist,” she said, then stopped, unable to complete the sentence. Dumbarton voted to affirm gay worshipers more than 30 years ago, and the church has performed 20 same-sex marriages since 2010, breaking the rules of the denomination every time. Now such actions will be met with much harsher penalties."
(The NY Times reports that there were some voting irregularities:
Improper Voting Discovered at Methodist Vote on Gay Clergy)

And from the Guardian:

Luxembourg PM takes Arab leaders to task on gay rights at summit
Xavier Bettel says his same-sex marriage would condemn him to death in some countries

"Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, has confronted Arab leaders over the repression of gay rights, telling them his same-sex marriage would condemn him to death in some of their countries.
"Bettel, the first EU leader to be married to a same-sex partner, had planned to make the intervention before arriving at the summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, which was the first gathering between the EU and Arab League.

"Homosexuality is punishable by death under sharia law in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Other countries in the region prohibit same-sex acts, including Algeria, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, Syria, Kuwait and some of the United Arab Emirates.
"Bettel’s point is underscored by the treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Egypt, the country that hosted the summit.

"Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, but LGBT people are frequently detained on euphemistic charges such as “debauchery”. After the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, came to power in a coup in 2013, he “appeared to embrace persecution of gays and trans people as a political strategy” according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
"The European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, defended the bloc’s decision to hold the summit. “If I only talked to flawless democrats, then I would end my week already by Tuesday,” he said."

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Organ donor compensation in New Zealand

Organ donation is being reorganized in New Zealand:
First step toward more life-saving organ transplants
Wednesday, 13 March 2019, Press Release: New Zealand Government

"The Organ Donors and Related Matters Bill introduced today enables the New Zealand Blood Service to take on the role of a national organ donation service. The Bill also extends in certain situations, the financial compensation for qualifying donors while they recuperate.
“The Bill also amends the Compensation for Live Organ Donors Act 2016, which gives qualifying donors financial compensation while they recuperate.

“While the Act is largely working well, donors who return to work part time are not eligible, nor are donors who could be part of the proposed trans-Tasman kidney exchange. The Bill will amend the Act to allow for compensation in these situations,” David Clark said.

"In 2018, there were 62 deceased donors who enabled 192 recipients to receive kidney, liver, lung, heart or pancreas transplants, and many more recipients received tissue transplants. There were also 84 live donor kidney transplants and 2 live donor liver transplants."