Saturday, October 16, 2021

Market design in Tokyo

 Fuhito Kojima and Hiroaki Odahara report on some of the projects presently underway at the University of Tokyo Market Design Center (UTMD), which include matching for child care, for medical residencies, and for internal labor markets.

Kojima, F., Odahara, H. Toward market design in practice: a progress report. Japanese Economic Review, (2021).

Abstract: In recent years, many developments have been made in matching theory and its applications to market design. This paper surveys some selected topics from this research area and describe our own work. We also describe the newly established University of Tokyo Market Design Center (UTMD), which works as a vehicle for practical implementation.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Muriel Niederle receiving the Morgenstern Medal: intro and speech (video)

Here's the video of Muriel Niederle receiving her  2021 Oskar Morgenstern Medal.

Starting at minute 25:45 you can hear Jean Robert Tyran introducing Muriel and her work. She is honored for her work in market design and her studies of gender in economic environments. The introduction is well worth listening to.  Muriel's talk begins at minute 52, and is called "A Gender Agenda." (She begins by noting "A lot of economists are not female.")

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The United Arab Emirates and the Alliance for Paired Kidney Exchange formalize their relationship

 From the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office, this Oct. 7 announcement:

SEHA, Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation Formalize Partnership to Promote Paired Kidney Donation

"Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, (SEHA), the UAE’s largest healthcare network, and Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation (APKD), a non-profit organization based in Ohio, U.S, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) following their recent collective success in facilitating paired kidney donations.

"With both organizations sharing a common goal to elevate opportunities for donation and transplants for both local and international patients with kidney disease, this strategic agreement will see SEHA and APKD working closely together to build a paired kidney donation program in the UAE, as well as facilitate transplant opportunities for patients with kidney failure seeking the right match kidney from the UAE or abroad.

"Dr. Tarek Fathey, Group Chief Executive Officer, SEHA, said: “A fundamental element of our constant growth and development as SEHA is building fruitful partnerships and relationships with global pioneers. Collaborating with APKD strengthens our position to significantly add to the UAE’s healthcare ecosystem and will introduce ample opportunities for us to transform kidney care locally, regionally and internationally.”

"As part of the agreement, SEHA Kidney Care (SKC), part of the SEHA network and Abu Dhabi’s go-to for kidney disease and treatment, will benefit from the opportunity to engage in training modules in health information technology systems applications (including Kidney Match – APKD’s paired organ exchange software), develop educational and scientific research papers and studies, and the exchange of medical, technical, and administrative experience.

"Dr. Ali Al Obaidli, Chief Medical Officer, SKC & Chairman of the UAE National Transplant Committee, said: “The key to the success of paired kidney donations is collaboration, locally and internationally. Thankfully, in the UAE, we boast a robust foundation of healthcare stakeholders and partners who will be integral in the build and roll-out of such a program. Building on our support, we are pleased to formalize a long-term partnership with APKD – by strengthening our relationship, we are unlocking pathways into countries across the world that will facilitate life-saving solutions for kidney disease patients across the globe, as well as build and bolster a paired kidney program here in the UAE that will benefit our citizens and residents.”

The APKD provides a powerful matching platform... that works with governments and hospitals around the world to match living kidney donors with patients in need within and across borders.

On a recent visit to the UAE, ... Dr. Alvin Roth, said: “Kidney disease is a global problem that requires a global solution. The UAE, with its diverse population and solid healthcare infrastructure, is well positioned to lead the charge. ....”

Dr. Michael Rees, MD PhD, Chief Executive Officer, APKD, said: “.... We are thrilled to partner with the UAE’s largest healthcare network in efforts to elevate the country’s infrastructure to not only heal its residents, but to contribute to the global healthcare landscape in terms of cross-country paired donations and transplants and research.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Kidney donation and the strange, viral story of the "Bad Art Friend"

 A short story about a kidney donor prompted a long article in the NY Times Magazine last week, and that article has gone viral. Here's the article:

Who Is the Bad Art Friend? Art often draws inspiration from life — but what happens when it’s your life? Inside the curious case of Dawn Dorland v. Sonya Larson.   By Robert Kolker

Here are some paragraphs that set the stage for the drama described in the article.

"On June 24, 2015, a year after completing her M.F.A. in creative writing, Dorland did perhaps the kindest, most consequential thing she might ever do in her life. She donated one of her kidneys, and elected to do it in a slightly unusual and particularly altruistic way. As a so-called nondirected donation, her kidney was not meant for anyone in particular but instead was part of a donation chain, coordinated by surgeons to provide a kidney to a recipient who may otherwise have no other living donor. 


"Several weeks before the surgery, Dorland decided to share her truth with others. She started a private Facebook group, inviting family and friends, including some fellow writers from GrubStreet, the Boston writing center where Dorland had spent many years learning her craft. After her surgery, she posted something to her group: a heartfelt letter she’d written to the final recipient of the surgical chain, whoever they may be."


The NYT article goes on to tell a sad story about how some of the "fellow writers" took a dislike to the kidney donor, feeling that her good deed was inspired by nothing more than attention seeking.  One of them published a short fiction called "The Kindest," about just such a supposed donor (depicted as a racist or at least racially insensitive "white savior").  It contained a letter vey much like the one the real kidney donor shared.  Some but not all of the dispute that followed involves the question about whether this met the legal definition of plagiarism.


This is a good place to (re)state my own view, as someone with a long interest in kidney exchange, that kidney donors, especially nondirected donors, are heroes whose donation does a world of good.  Thousands of kidney transplants have been facilitated by kidney exchange chains begun by nondirected donors.  I've met a number of such donors, and they seem to me to be by and large selfless people who did something wonderful that became a significant part of their lives, even though they don't generally regard themselves as heroes.

Listen to some of their stories here, in interviews of donors by a donor: Donor Diaries Podcast

Of course, they probably have to be a bit careful telling their stories, and discussions among donors might be safe spaces where they won't be misunderstood.  That's surely an experience that donors have in common with other people who have done or experienced something remarkable, such as military veterans who are Medal of Honor winners, and who give each other needed support when recognized as such.


But how about art?

Here's a story in the New Yorker reviewing the short story described in the NY Times Magazine article. It asks whether the short story in question qualifies as the kind of art that might justify the liberties the author took.

The Short Story at the Center of the “Bad Art Friend” Saga.  A Times Magazine feature has prompted feverish discourse about the ethics of artistic appropriation. Is the art in question any good?  By Katy Waldman

"This raises the question of whether Larson did any better of a job exploiting Dorland’s kidney donation for personal gain, insofar as exploiting existing material for personal gain is a pretty good working definition of being a writer.

"By my reading, she did not. Larson lifted an extremely potent premise—the needy organ donor, seeking connection and validation—and crafted a story that manages to diminish its built-in intrigue. In fact, “The Kindest” falls short in precisely the ways the saga laid out in the Times Magazine piece might lead us to expect: it makes a cartoon of the donor character, and it over-relies on identity-inflected hand-waving. Also, the prose is bad."


I don't know how much of a larger lesson is contained in all this, aside from the observation that even acts of great generosity can be viewed with suspicion, by those who are so inclined.  This may have something to do with why the efforts against black markets in kidneys have turned into an obsessive campaign against compensation for donors and  repugnance to any transactions that resemble rewarding donors for their generosity.

I think this is a shame. To put it another way, even if some donors were to be motivated by attention seeking, isn't it better for society if they seek attention by behaving heroically in such beneficial ways? (Just think about all the wasteful or destructive ways that attention seekers sometimes seek attention...)

I'm sticking to my view of donors as heroes. 

(I even have a paper about heroism and kidney donation:

Niederle, Muriel and Alvin E. Roth, “Philanthropically Funded Heroism Awards for Kidney Donors?, Law & Contemporary Problems, 77:3, 2014, 131-144.  )

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Ryan Oprea wins the Exeter Prize for the paper "What Makes a Rule Complex?"

 The Exeter Prize Committee has circulated the cheerful announcement below, about the latest winner of that prize (which has a very distinguished history):

"We are happy to announce the winner of the 2021 Exeter Prize for the best paper published in the previous calendar year in a peer-reviewed journal in the fields of Experimental Economics, Behavioural Economics and Decision Theory.

"The winner is Ryan Oprea (University of California at Santa Barbara) for his paper “What Makes a Rule Complex”, published in The American Economic Review. 

"This paper offers a crisp experimental measurement of complexity. It offers a rich description of how complexity affects actual humans, which has tremendous potential for informing policy making as well as theoretical research across disciplines (from psychology, computer science, and cognitive science to economics). In the experiment the subjects are asked to implement various decision rules. Five dimensions of complexity are studied: the number of states and transitions, existence of absorbing states and redundant states, and a measure of working memory. The paper looks at three different measures of behaviour: the error rate, the implementation time, and the subjects' own willingness to pay to get the decision rule implemented by a computer. The experiment also measures how fast people learn various decision rules and how transferable this knowledge is. This paper offers a new impetus for research, getting us outside of our comfortable box of constrained optimization. This is a risky and challenging attempt, with a high upside potential.

"The winning paper was selected by the panel of Nina Mazar (Boston University), Rosemarie Nagel (ICREA-UPF-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), and Tomasz Strzalecki (Harvard University). "


Here's the paper:

What Makes a Rule Complex?  AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW, VOL. 110, NO. 12, DECEMBER 2020  (pp. 3913-51  "By Ryan Oprea*

"We study the complexity of rules by paying experimental subjects to implement a series of algorithms and then eliciting their willingness-to-pay to avoid implementing them again in the future. The design allows us to examine hypotheses from the theoretical “automata” literature about the characteristics of rules that generate complexity costs. We find substantial aversion to complexity and a number of regularities in the characteristics of rules that make them complex and costly for subjects. Experience with a rule, the way a rule is represented, and the context in which a rule is implemented (mentally versus physically) also influence complexity"

Monday, October 11, 2021

Natural experiments win a Nobel in Economics: Angrist, Card and Imbens

 Congratulations to David Card, Josh Angrist, and Guido Imbens. Natural experiments and their statistical analysis join laboratory experiments and randomized control trials in the pantheon of modern empirical tools in economics celebrated in Stockholm:

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2021

David Card

Joshua Angrist

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2021 was divided, one half awarded to David Card "for his empirical contributions to labour economics", the other half jointly to Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens "for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships."

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Death with dignity in Colombia, and a last minute reversal

 The Washington Post has the story (followed by new developments at the very last minute):

She’s 51, a mother and a devout Catholic. She plans to die by euthanasia on Sunday.   By Samantha Schmidt and Diana Durán 

"In November 2018, a doctor gave Martha Sepúlveda her diagnosis: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the progressive neurological disease known in the United States as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In the months that followed, the Colombian woman lost control of the muscles in her legs — and she knew it would only get worse.


"Sepúlveda started reading about an option that could relieve her fear of what was to come: Euthanasia. Colombia, she learned, is the only country in Latin America — and one of only a few worldwide — that permits patients to end their lives.

"Until this year, the option has been available legally only to those who are expected to live for six months or less. On Sunday, Sepúlveda, who considers herself a devout Catholic, plans to become the first person in Colombia without a terminal prognosis to die by legally authorized euthanasia.

"Colombia’s constitutional court ruled in July that the right to euthanasia — recognized here in 1997 — applies not only to terminal patients, but also to those with “intense physical or mental suffering from bodily injury or serious and incurable disease.”

"The ruling has divided the faithful in this majority-Catholic country. Church officials have described euthanasia as a “serious offense” to the dignity of human life; a member of the national bishops’ conference urged Sepúlveda to “calmly reflect” on her decision and invited all Catholics to pray that God will grant her mercy."


Update: some late breaking news:

They cancel euthanasia of the Colombian Martha Sepúlveda, who was going to die this Sunday

"The IPS Incodol (Colombian Institute of Pain) canceled the euthanasia of Martha Sepulveda, which was scheduled for this Sunday at 7 am

"The Interdisciplinary Scientific Committee for the Right to Die with Dignity “unanimously concluded to cancel the procedure.”

"The IPS added that “The request was reviewed and analyzed again in a comprehensive and sufficient manner”, then “it is defined that the termination criterion is not met, as was considered in the first committee ”.

"This 51-year-old woman was to become the first non-terminal patient to access euthanasia this Sunday. Sepúlveda did not know of the mass that was celebrated in his name, nor of the request that the Colombian Episcopal Conference for you to reconsider your decision.

"She was ready to die and had even turned off her cell phone. “Martha has no idea what the priests have said, so it’s really like the world is exploding outside and she has no idea what’s going on. If Martha’s cell phone were available, she would have no life, but we have been very careful that she is in her world, sheltered now and that no one interferes with her peace and tranquility “, said Camila Jaramillo Salazar, her lawyer, before meeting the IPS."


Here's the Washington Post followup on this development:

She had canceled her phone plan and was ready to die. Now a surprise decision has halted her euthanasia bid.  By Samantha Schmidt and Rachel PanBOGOTÁ, Colombia — A 51-year-old woman was set to become the first person in this majority-Catholic country without a terminal prognosis to die by legally authorized euthanasia on Sunday. But a surprise 11th-hour decision by health officials has halted her bid.

"Martha Sepúlveda was awakened by her lawyers Friday night with the news of a letter announcing that her euthanasia procedure scheduled for 7 a.m. Sunday had been canceled, after a medical committee determined that she no longer met the conditions because her health had apparently improved.

"The decision to cancel the procedure came as a complete surprise, according to her lawyers. She had no idea health officials were even meeting to review her case. She had been quietly living out her final hours, and had tuned out media coverage of her case.


"“They’re obligating her to live a life that she is not willing to continue to live,” said Lucas Correa Montoya, a lawyer representing Sepúlveda alongside Jaramillo with DescLAB. “What has happened in the past few weeks is an example of the long road ahead for death with dignity in Colombia.”