Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blog on school choice by Atila Abdulkadiroglu

Atila Abdulkadiroglu at Duke has a new blog called
School Choice: News and developments from schools and economics that matter to parents and districts.

His first two posts have been on the debate about choice in Wake County.

Harvard's mysterious Z-list

One of the more unusual routes to admission at Harvard is the Z-list, which the Crimson writes about this week. Z-Listed Students Experience Year Off: Undergrads take mandatory gap year before coming to Harvard

Last year I wrote about it here: Harvard's "Z-list," waitlist admission with a difference .

It's that mandatory year off that makes the Z-list unusual (students who enter from the Z-list must delay a year and can't attend another school while they wait).

The mystery is to whom this admissions option is offered, and who chooses to accept. There's some signaling going on here, and some sorting.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kidney exchange at NEPKE

The Sunday Globe has a good story about a recent three way kidney exchange at the New England Program for Kidney Exchange. One of the donors was a prominent local nephrologist.
Harvesting hope from a giving tree: The story of three couples, three kidneys and one goal: life.

It's a well written article that illustrates both some of the logistical complexities of a three way exchange, and some of the personal details of the six participants.

I'm always glad to see three way exchanges, in part because for a while it seemed like the logistical difficulties would preclude them.

Here are the papers which helped us make the case in New England:

Saidman, Susan L., Alvin E. Roth, Tayfun Sönmez, M. Utku Ünver, and Francis L. Delmonico, " Increasing the Opportunity of Live Kidney Donation By Matching for Two and Three Way Exchanges," Transplantation, ,81, 5, March 15, 2006, 773-782.

Roth, Alvin E., Tayfun Sonmez , and M. Utku Unver, "Efficient Kidney Exchange: Coincidence of Wants in Markets with Compatibility-Based Preferences," (May, 2005. NBER Paper w11402), American Economic Review, 97, 3, June 2007, 828-851. (And here is the online appendix with some of the proofs.)

One of the curious things about publishing in both economics and medical journals is that the paper which came first was published second...the AER takes a bit longer than Transplantation.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The market for matzot

The Passover holiday is a time to think about matzah, whose plural is matzot. A little market history: Thoroughly Modern Matzah

"In 1888, Behr Manischewitz, an astute and pious immigrant from East Prussia, opened a matzah factory in Cincinnati. Soon facing local competition, he cut costs, improved quality, and burnished his image. His factory introduced the first square matzot, unmistakable products of industrial automation. Advertising his technology to English readers, he simultaneously won rabbinic endorsements in Yiddish and Hebrew periodicals.
Over time, Manischewitz and his competitors—Streit, Horowitz-Margareten, Goodman—created a distinctively American matzah for a a distinctively American Passover: a holiday coming to be seen less as the birth of a particular nation than as a celebration of freedom in general."

Some further background here: Those Magnificent Men and Their Matzah Machines*

Chag Pesach sameach, y'all. Let's all try to excel at being free.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

School choice in North Carolina

"A bitter fight over school choice in North Carolina grabbed national headlines in recent months," says a news release from Duke University, which notes that Duke is fortunate in having a local expert on school choice, in Atila Abdulkadiroglu.

News Tip: Economic Model Can Help Diversify U.S. Schools While Maintaining Community School Preferences, Expert Says
"The use of economic models to design flexible assignment policies can help school systems achieve racial and socioeconomic diversity while also keeping parents who prefer neighborhood schools happy, says a Duke University professor who researches the economics of education.
A key component is to incorporate parental preferences in school assignments “to the maximum extent possible,” says Atila Abdulkadiroglu, a professor in Duke’s Department of Economics."

Here's the background story: Duke Professor Says Diversity, Parental Choice Can Work Together.
"Earlier this week, the Wake County School Board voted 5-4 to end the district's diversity policy by stopping the practice of busing students to achieve socio-economic balance, and instead switch to neighborhood-based assignments."

Usury and anti-semitism

From Ira Stoll's review of Capitalism and the Jews, by Jerry Z. Muller, Princeton University Press:

"The book by Mr. Muller, a professor of history at Catholic University, consists of a short introduction and four chapters. It's the first chapter, "The Long Shadow of Usury," that's the most enlightening.
"Usury was an important concept with a long shadow. It was significant because the condemnation of lending money at interest was based on the presumptive illegitimacy of all economic gain not derived from physical labor. That way of conceiving of economic activity led to a failure to recognize the role of knowledge and the evaluation of risk in economic life," he writes. "So closely was the reviled practice of usury identified with the Jews that St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the leader of the Cistercian Order, in the middle of the twelfth century referred to the taking of usury as 'Jewing'" says Mr. Muller."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

China's theme park of dwarves

A Miniature World Magnifies Dwarf Life

Quotes reflecting opposing views of repugnance:

“I think it is horrible,” said Gary Arnold, the spokesman for Little People of America Inc., a dwarfism support group based in California. “What is the difference between it and a zoo?” Even the term “dwarf” is offensive to some; his organization prefers “person of short stature.”

"But there is another view, and Mr. Chen and some of his short-statured workers present it forcefully. One hundred permanently employed dwarfs, they contend, is better than 100 dwarfs scrounging for odd jobs. They insist that the audiences who see the dwarfs sing, dance and perform comic routines leave impressed by their skills and courage."

HT: Zhenyu Lai and Aytek Erdil

Friday, March 26, 2010

School choice is serious business: litigation and politics in NYC and Chicago

In NYC, high school admissions have been delayed by a lawsuit motivated by the city's effort to close some schools: High school letters delayed.

"March 24 Update — Chancellor Joel Klein released a statement on the delay of high school letters today. “I understand you are anxious to receive this information, and rest assured, the Department of Education is doing everything possible to make the matches available soon,” it reads.
The statement acknowledges that the delay is being caused by the NAACP/teachers union lawsuit, but does not comment on the lawsuit or provide an estimated date for the letters’ release. It does state that the DOE will issue another update when it “knows more.”
March 23 — Eighth-graders anxiously awaiting receipt of high school acceptances letters tomorrow will have to be patient a while longer. How much longer is not clear. The letters, due to be distributed to students on March 24, are still being held up by court order because of a lawsuit filed against the Department of Education by the NAACP and the teachers union. The lawsuit charges that the DOE acted illegally in moving to close 19 schools."

Update: March 26, Judge Blocks Closing of 19 New York City Schools. The city will appeal. In the meantime, "The lawsuit had held up some 85,000 high school acceptance letters that were due out on Wednesday. The city’s interpretation of the ruling is that it clears the way for all those letters to go out next week, although the plaintiffs disagree.
Students were required to state their high school preferences in early December, around the time the department began to reveal which schools it wanted to close. About 8,500 applied to the schools proposed for closing and were notified later that they could not attend them. Those students will receive acceptance letters from other schools next week, along with a note saying that they could revert to their original choice if the school remains open. "


In Chicago, school assignments involved some high powered political wheeling and dealing: In Chicago, Obama Aide Had V.I.P. List for Schools.

HT: Parag Pathak

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Time to scramble, if still on the economics job market

If you are still on the market for new economics Ph.D.s, now is the time to register for the 2010 Job Market Scramble

Registration is open now, and remains open only until March 30, this coming Tuesday. Don't wait until the last day to do it; not only does that make it more likely that you will forget, but I'm not sure when on Tuesday the signup might go away. If you aren't currently holding an offer you might accept this weekend, or expecting one imminently, and if you are still looking for a job this year, I would recommend signing up now.

The scramble site will be open for viewing (candidates can view jobs, and employers can view candidates) from April 1-12.

The Scramble is discussed on pages 13-15 of our recently revised paper
Peter Coles, John Cawley, Phillip B. Levine, Muriel Niederle, Alvin E. Roth, and John J. Siegfried , " The Job Market for New Economists: A Market Design Perspective," revised March 19, 2010, forthcoming in Journal of Economic Perspectives, Summer 2010.
The current version of that paper can be found here (and I'll update this link when the final version becomes available, which should have some ex-post description of this year's scramble numbers).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Random matchings

Random matchings are the subject of two new papers.

The first (not in chronological order:) IMPLEMENTING RANDOM ASSIGNMENTS: A GENERALIZATION OF THE BIRKHOFF-VON NEUMANN THEOREM by ERIC BUDISH, YEON-KOO CHE, FUHITO KOJIMA, AND PAUL MILGROM

Abstract. "The literature on random mechanisms often describes outcomes incompletely as "random assignments" expressing the expected number of objects of each type assigned to different agents and a set of feasibility constraints that a pure assignment must satisfy. We provide a necessary and sufficient condition (the "bihierarchy" condition) for the set of constraints to have the property that if the random assignment satisfies them, then it is implementable by a lottery over feasible pure assignments. Our theorem maximally generalizes the celebrated Birkhoff-von Neumann theorem. We also provide an algorithm to implement any such random assignment. Several applications are described, including (i) single-unit random assignment, such as school choice; (ii) multi-unit random assignment, such as course allocation and fair division; and (iii) twosided matching problems, such as the scheduling of inter-league sports matchups. The same method also finds applications outside economics, generalizing previous results on the minimize makespan problem in the computer science literature."

The second (no significance to the ordering aside from when I read them) is "An Equivalence result in School Choice" by Jay Sethuraman
ABSTRACT: "The main result of the paper is a proof of the equivalence of single and multiple lottery mechanisms for the problem of allocating students to schools in which students have strict preferences and the schools are indifferent. This solves a recent open problem proposed by Pathak, who was motivated by the practical problem of assigning students to high schools in New York City. In proving this result, a new approach is introduced, that simplifies and unifies all the known equivalence results in the house allocation literature. Along the way, two new mechanisms—Partitioned Random Priority and Partitioned Random Endowment—are introduced for the house allocation problem. These mechanisms generalize several known and well-studied mechanisms for the house allocation problem and are particularly appropriate for many-to-one versions of the problem, the school choice problem being the most prominent."

(And here's a link to the earlier paper by Parag Pathak: Lotteries in Student Assignment: The Equivalence of Queueing and a Market-Based Approach)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Misc. kidney exchange links

The growth of kidney exchange is reflected in the following miscellany of stories.

Trading for the Perfect Match: MassGeneral Hospital for Children patient receives kidney through a four-way kidney swap arranged by the New England Program for Kidney Exchange.

At the University of Maryland: Paired Kidney Exchange: A Major Breakthrough in Kidney Transplantation

Doctor: ‘Living my dream’ Kidney surgeon Dr. J. Keith Melancon returns to speak at his alma mater, the U. of Louisiana.
"Melancon was in town as the featured speaker of the university’s Black History Month kick-off celebration Monday evening. Before the event, Melancon visited with students at Comeaux High, South Louisiana Community College and ULL.
Melancon now has a role in African American history. He said he recognizes that his story is an “American story.”
“This little black boy from Lafayette, Louisiana, overcoming the obstacle of growing up young and black in America,” he said. “I am proud of my heritage of coming from here.”
Now, at 41, Melancon is director of the kidney and pancreas transplant program at Georgetown University Hospital. He said he made the move from Baltimore to make a difference in metropolitan Washington, D.C., where there’s a large minority population and a high incidence rate of kidney disease.
“If you’re African-American in this country, you’re four times more likely to have kidney disease,” Melancon said."

see here for a chart on the 13-way set of three kidney exchange chains each started by an altruistic donor,

And this comment by Sally Satel and Mark Perry on how many more donors might be available if they could be legally compensated: More kidney donors are needed to meet a rising demand

Kidney exchange in Pittsburgh
"McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Ron Shapiro, MD, is director of the kidney, pancreas, and islet transplant program at the UPMC Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute and professor of surgery and Robert J. Corry Chair in Transplantation Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. On December 10, Dr. Shapiro and a team of UPMC doctors participated in UPMC’s first kidney paired donation in collaboration with Temple University Hospital and the Paired Donation Network. The couples, a husband and wife from Pittsburgh and two sisters from Philadelphia, donated kidneys to each others’ loved ones in a two-way surgical swap. Such paired exchanges are still uncommon. All donors and recipients are recovering well.
...This exchange was facilitated by the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) and the Gift of Life".

and in CA: UC Davis Medical Center completes four kidney transplants in two days using paired exchange
"(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Using the revolutionary new approach to kidney transplants known as paired exchange, four patients have received live-donor kidney transplants through the UC Davis Kidney Transplant Program."

and in Philadelphia: Her one kidney changed four lives

meanwhile, mixed news from Europe:
EU want to impose ban on altruistic, pooled and paired kidney donations.
while in Spain things seem to be going the other way:
Donar órganos en vida a desconocidos será legal (ht Flip Klijn)
Here's a summary.

Transplant ethics

Two stories reflect different aspects of current debates about transplantation, and who are appropriate recipients, and donors.

Transplant tourism poses ethical dilemma for US doctors

"In the current case, a 46-year-old Chinese accountant (HQ) was placed on the UNOS transplant registry with a Model for End Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score of 18 that increased to 21 while on the candidate waitlist for over a year (MELD scores range from 6 for those least ill through 40 for those most sick). HQ then traveled to the People's Republic of China (PRC) and was transplanted two weeks after arrival. After transplantation, HQ returned to the Mount Sinai program requesting follow-up care, which was provided. HQ then developed biliary sepsis requiring hospitalization and re-transplantation seemed to be the only viable option.

"While the patient was a medically suitable candidate, team members disagreed if it were indeed, morally right to provide him with a transplant," said Thomas Schiano, M.D., one of the case clinicians and lead author of this study. Ultimately, the transplant team proceeded with a liver transplant for HQ and he is currently doing well. "Our consensus to transplant was based on the relevant principles of medical ethics—non-judgmental regard, beneficence, and fiduciary responsibility," added Dr. Schiano. " (emphasis added)

"The Dilemma and Reality of Transplant Tourism: An Ethical Perspective for Liver Transplant Programs." Thomas D. Schiano, Rosamond Rhodes. Liver Transplantation; Published Online: January 26, 2010 (DOI: 10.1002/lt.21967); Print Issue Date: February 2010.

Project to get transplant organs from ER patients raises ethics questions
"The practice could backfire by making an already skeptical public less likely to designate themselves as organ donors, several experts said. "

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reserve prices in ad auctions: a field experiment by Ostrovsky and Schwarz

Reserve Prices in Internet Advertising Auctions: A Field Experiment by Michael Ostrovsky and Michael Schwarz.

Abstract
"We present the results of a large field experiment on setting reserve prices in auctions for online advertisements, guided by the theory of optimal auction design suitably adapted to the sponsored search setting. Consistent with the theory, following the introduction of new reserve prices revenues in these auctions have increased substantially."


And, from the introduction:
"Reserve prices in the randomly selected "treatment" group were set based on the guidance provided by the theory of optimal auctions, while in the "control" group they were left at the old level of 10 cents per click. The revenues in the treatment group have increased substantially relative to the control group, showing that reserve prices in auctions can in fact play an important role and that theory provides a useful guide for setting them. This increase is especially pronounced for keywords with relatively high search volumes, for keywords in which the theoretically optimal reserve price is relatively high, and for keywords with a relatively small number of bidders."...

"Our paper makes several contributions relative to [earlier] studies. First, it analyzes a much larger and economically important setting, with thousands of keywords and millions (and potentially, given the size of the online advertising industry, billions) of dollars at stake. Consequently, many of the bidders in this setting spend considerable time and resources on optimizing their advertising campaigns. Second, the reserve prices in the experiment are guided by theory, based on the estimated distributions of bidder values. To the best of our knowledge, there are no other papers describing direct practical applications of the seminal results of Myerson (1981) and Riley and Samuelson (1981). Third, unlike the previous studies, the benchmark in our analysis is not a zero reserve price, but the existing reserve price set by the company after a long period of experimentation."


In the conclusion they say that setting optimal reservation prices reduces ads shown by about one per search, but increases search revenue by almost 3%, which is a big deal when multiplied by the enormous numbers of searches.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Congressional briefing, postscript



On March 15, 2010 I gave a 15 minute presentation as part of a Congressional Briefing on the usefulness of Economics (particularly economic research supported by the NSF). Here are my slides: Improved Markets for Doctors, Organ Transplants and School Choice. (My talk focused on how early NSF-supported game theory research had led to recent developments in market design.)

The slides take a little while to load, since they contain a few photos. Speaking of photos, afterwards there were some photo opportunities, and I was happy to be included in the one above with my new Senator from MA, Scott Brown, who I wish the very best of luck in his demanding new job.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Signaling and hiring: one law recruiter's opinion

From the Faculty Lounge: Tim Zinnecker writes

"Speaking solely for myself (and not fellow committee members or my law school institution), I hope we place a greater burden on candidates to prove a genuine interest in relocating, before we start the courtship. It can be frustrating (not only for law schools, but for other candidates who get "bumped") when, after the time and expense of a flyback, a candidate declines, citing "spousal relocation phobia." Some candidates disclose geographic restrictions on the FAR forms. Thank you. Some candidates decline the flyback, citing geographic concerns. Thank you (although why did you accept the screening interview?). But candidates who accept the flyback, receive an offer, and then disclose that the spouse won't relocate? Very frustrating."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Market design posters

I'm giving a public talk on market design in Toronto on March 22, and Martin Osborne writes:

"Hi Al. We're making preparations for your visit. We've created some posters that you may be interested to see http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/osborne/poster1.pdf
http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/osborne/poster2.pdf
http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/osborne/poster3.pdf
http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/osborne/poster4.pdf
http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/osborne/poster5.pdf
(#4 is a much bigger file than the others, because we are going to us it for the hard copies.)"

The pictures are great. To my eye, the market in poster 2 looks like the one in most need of some design...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Match Day!

This year's schedule for announcing the results of the resident match ends today, when most graduating medical students will learn where they have been matched.

Over the last few days, those who were not matched in the main match learned of this, so that they could "scramble" to match by the time that their colleagues would learn of their matches.

Here's this year's schedule:

March 15, 2010--Applicant matched and unmatched information posted to the Web site at 12:00 noon eastern time.
March 16, 2010--Filled and unfilled results for individual programs posted to the Web site at 11:30 a.m. eastern time.
Locations of all unfilled positions are released at 12:00 noon eastern time. Unmatched applicants may begin contacting unfilled programs at 12:00 noon eastern time.
March 18, 2010--Match Day! Match results for applicants are posted to Web site at 1:00 pm eastern time.

Next year this will all play out differently, since the NRMP has decided to organize a "managed scramble":

"The NRMP Board of Directors has voted to proceed with implementation of a "managed" Scramble for the 2012 Main Residency Match. Under the plan, unfilled positions must be offered and accepted through the NRMP R3 System during Match Week. Offers will be made every three hours Wednesday - Friday of Match Week, and applicants will be able to receive multiple simultaneous offers. Match Day will be moved from Thursday to Friday. Questions should be directed to nrmp@aamc.org."

Right now there is pressure on the number of residencies that can be funded, so there may not be as much problem with congestion as would otherwise be a concern. We'll have to wait until next year to find out. (I wasn't involved in this latest design discussion.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Who would sell kidneys, if kidney sales were legal?

Not just the poor, according to a new (and sure to be controversial) study conducted by interviewing people at regional rail and urban trolley lines near Philadelphia.

The Annals of Internal Medicine has just published an article
Regulated Payments for Living Kidney Donation: An Empirical Assessment of the Ethical Concerns by Scott D. Halpern, Amelie Raz, Rachel Kohn, Michael Rey, David A. Asch, and Peter Reese.

It finds: "...participants' willingness to donate increased significantly as their risk for kidney failure decreased, as the payment offered increased, and when the kidney recipient was a family member rather than a patient on a public waiting list (P [lessthan] 0.001 for each). No statistical interactions were identified ...between payment and income (odds ratio, 1.01 [CI, 0.99 to 1.03]). The proximity of these estimates to 1.0 and narrowness of the CIs suggest that payment is neither an undue nor an unjust inducement, respectively. Alerting participants to the possibility of payment did not alter their willingness to donate for altruistic reasons (P = 0.40). "

The lead author, Scott Halpern, is at Penn, affiliated with the Center for Health Incentives.

Wiseguy Tickets

If I were planning to break the laws on ticket resales, I think I would refrain from calling my company Wiseguy Tickts: 4 Charged in Concert Ticket Resale Scheme

"Federal prosecutors in New Jersey said on Monday that four men operating under the name Wiseguy Tickets had broken into online sites, buying more than one million tickets to some of the country’s most popular musical and sporting events and then reselling them for more than $25 million in profit.
In its 43-count indictment, the prosecutors say the men built a computer network that created thousands of fake accounts and built a program that could outsmart the ticketing software that creates oddly shaped letters intended to require human verification.
The events affected by the scheme cut across a wide swath of the entertainment business, from Hannah Montana concerts to Broadway shows and New York Yankees playoff games. The verification systems of many major online ticket vendors, including Ticketmaster, Telecharge and Major League Baseball, were breached."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

B2B finance

Page 14 of a recent report by Morgan Stanley focuses on The Receivables Exchange, about which I have posted previously. (The Morgan Stanley report emphasizes: " This is not a research report and was not prepared by Morgan Stanley research department. It was prepared by Morgan Stanley sales, trading, banking and other non-research personnel. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance.") Here it is.

The report has some recent performance statistics, and says "The Receivables Exchange, a private company, started trading on November 18, 2008 to bring private capital to the market for SME [small/medium enterprise] credit. Via The Receivables Exchange, an SME can auction its receivables to the highest bidder(s) for a substantial advance rate. The Receivables Exchange provides straight-through processing and acts as collateral agent and servicer, using an innovative approach to mitigate default risk."

Here are my previous posts about the Receivables Exchange, which strikes me as quite an interesting venture in disintermediation of credit. (Full disclosure; I'm on their advisory board.)

New clearinghouse for new doctors in Scotland

There have been some changes in the SCOTTISH FOUNDATION ALLOCATION SCHEME, the program that matches new medical graduates to their first positions (which would be called residencies in the US) in Scotland.

Two features stand out in comparison to the American system (the NRMP).

First, employers may not submit preferences, but rather are all constrained to rank potential employees by their exam scores.

Second, couples cannot submit preferences over pairs of positions. Instead, each member of the couple submits a rank ordering of individual positions, and the algorithm combines these into a joint preference over pairs that is a function of the submitted rank order list and a table of compatibilities of positions.

"To accommodate linked applicants, a joint preference list is formed for each such pair, using their individual preference lists and the programme compatibility information. If such a pair, a and b, have individual preferences p1, p2, . . . , p10 and q1, q2, . . . , q10 respectively (with a the higher scoring applicant), then the joint preference list of the pair (a,b) is (p1,q1), (p1,q2), (p2,q1), (p2,q2), (p1,q3), (p3,q1), (p2,q3), (p3,q2), . . ., (p9,q10), (p10,q9), (p10,q10) (except that incompatible pairs of programmes are omitted)
In the main body of the algorithm, the members of a linked pair are handled together, so the match of the pair (a,b) to the programmes (p,q) will be accepted only if each of these programmes either has an unfilled place or a lower scoring applicant who can be displaced. A complication arises when one member x of a linked pair has to be withdrawn from a programme p because his/her partner was displaced from their current assigned programme. In this case, some other applicants may have been rejected by p because of the presence of x, and any such applicant a must be withdrawn from their current programme, if any, and have their best achievable preference reset to p. (A corresponding, but more complex reset operation is needed if a is a member of a linked pair). This reset operation thereby allows a further opportunity for applicant a to be matched to programme p.
The algorithm terminates when every single applicant and linked pair is either matched or has been rejected by, or displaced from, every entry in their preference list with no possibility of reconsideration by a programme that has had a withdrawal.
The final matching is stable for single applicants, as before, but also for linked pairs, in the sense that:
there can be no linked pair (a,b) of applicants who would prefer to be matched to compatible programmes (p,q), and at the same time, each of p and q has an unfilled place or an assigned applicant with a lower score than a and b respectively."

HT: Rob Irving, who has designed and implemented the algorithm.

Here are some related papers by members of the Scottish matching group.

Keeping partners together: algorithmic results for the hospitals/residents problem with couples by Eric J. McDermid and David F. Manlove in
Journal of Combinatorial Optimization, (2009)

R.W. Irving, D.F. Manlove and S. Scott, The stable marriage problem with master preference lists, Discrete Applied Mathematics vol. 156 (2008), pp. 2959-2977.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New school choice system in San Francisco

Board Approves New Student Assignment System for San Francisco Schools

Most of the last minute discussion was about what priorities different kinds of students will have at different kinds of schools. That is something that is likely to be adjusted from year to year. But the nice thing is that the underlying choice architecture will make it safe for parents to state their true preferences however the priorities are adjusted.

From the press release: "The choice algorithm was designed with the help of a volunteer team of market design experts who have previously been involved in designing choice algorithms for school choice in Boston and New York City. Volunteers from four prominent universities contributed to the effort, including Clayton Featherstone and Muriel Niederle of Stanford University, Atila Abdulkadiroglu of Duke University, Parag Pathak of MIT, and Alvin Roth of Harvard.
“We are pleased that the district has decided to adopt a choice architecture that makes it safe for parents to concentrate their effort on determining which schools they prefer, with confidence that they won’t hurt their chances by listing their preferences truthfully,” said Niederle and Featherstone, the Stanford research team."

Here are Rachel Norton's comments (she's a school board member with a blog), and here's the story from the SF Chronicle. Here are some of my recent posts on school choice; many of the recent ones tell the SF story as it unfolded.

Now, on to implementation.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Raffle for a human egg

The Times of London reports: IVF doctors to raffle human egg

"A FERTILITY clinic is raffling a human egg in London to promote its new “baby profiling” service, which circumvents British IVF (in vitro fertilisation) laws.
The winner will be able to pick the egg donor by racial background, upbringing and education. Payment for profit is illegal in Britain, but the £13,000 of free IVF treatment will be provided in America. "
...
"The eggs are provided by American donors aged between 19 and 32, all of whom are university students or graduates. Overweight women or smokers are not accepted onto the donation programme Before picking a donor, the British women scan detailed anonymised profiles, including the donors’ motives for selling. The profiles include recordings of the women talking about their attitudes, as well as pictures taken of them in their childhood. They only provide an up-to-date photo if they enter serious negotiations.
Women egg donors in America can make $10,000 (£6,600) a time if they are well educated and with desirable physical characteristics.
The sale of their eggs was condemned yesterday by Josephine Quintavalle, founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, a pressure group, who said the infertility market had plumbed new depths.
“In no other branch of medicine would the ruthless exploitation of the vulnerable be tolerated. These women selling their eggs are taking a huge risk with their health and future fertility simply because they need the money.”
In Britain, donors have to agree to be identified and contacted by any resulting offspring when they reach the age of 18.
Payments are restricted to a maximum fee of £250 for expenses, and as a result donors are in extremely short supply. "
...
"The lure of payment means there is no shortage of would-be egg donors in America. GIVF receives up to 500 applications a month, but only about five will pass the two-month screening programme. "
...
"In Britain, only 956 of the 36,861 women who had IVF in 2007 received donor eggs. Half of those were egg sharers and of the remainder many were friends or relatives of the women being treated.
The number of donors is boosted by an arrangement whereby women receive free treatment if they agree to share their eggs with another patient who has no useable eggs at all. The drawback is that anyone undergoing fertility treatment necessarily has inferior eggs, so the chances of pregnancy for both women is relatively poor.
Egg donation is a protracted and painful process that requires treatment with potentially dangerous drugs. A donor has to undergo a course of treatment aimed at stimulating her ovaries to produce a dozen or more eggs in one menstrual cycle, instead of the single ripe egg released every month in natural conditions.
Bridge Centre staff admit they were bemused by the GIVF free egg offer from America. “They are much more market-driven than we are, and they do have some rather more creative techniques,” said Michael Summers, a senior consultant in reproductive medicine at the Bridge."

The debate over whether it's ok for women to sell eggs is not over in America. Kim Krawiec at Faculty Lounge asks How Is An Egg Donor Like A Prostitute?
"A few weeks ago, House Bill 3077, which would make it illegal to compensate women for oocyte donation, easily passed the Oklahoma house by a vote of 85-8. Said Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, the bill’s author, fertility clinics "could use donor eggs all they want; they just can’t go out and solicit women with money.” According to news reports, Hamilton has likened the practice to prostitution, claiming that “it turns doctors into predators.”
The debate harkens back to an exchange in September, in which Dr. Naomi Pfeffer drew fire for a statement to the Motherhood in the 21st Century Conference at the University College London that compared egg donors to prostitutes. As reported in The Times:
British couples who travel abroad for IVF treatment and buy other women’s eggs are engaging in a form of prostitution, a fertility conference was told yesterday. . .
Professor Pfeffer, who researches controversial developments in medicine, told the Motherhood in the 21st Century Conference at University College London: “The exchange relationship is analogous to that of a client and a prostitute. It’s a unique situation because it’s the only instance in which a woman exploits another woman’s body….
These women are being encouraged to take real risks with their health through ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval. It commodifies women’s bodies and treats their reproductive capacities as a service.
So, what sort of crazy person would compare an egg donor to a prostitute?
I would. But not for the reasons that either Hamilton or Pfeffer have in mind.
As I argue in the recently posted, A Woman’s Worth, an egg donor is much like a prostitute in the following sense: both are selling something that is often expected or encouraged to be given for free or at a reduced price, despite its high economic value. "

Saturday, March 13, 2010

School choice in Britain

A story in the Telegraph appears to report the remarkable fact that some schools in Britain are more popular than others, and are over-demanded: School admissions: half lose out in some areas
"Half of children in some areas have been rejected from their preferred secondary school amid fierce competition for the most sought-after places. "
...
"In Birmingham, only two-third of children gained places in their preferred school, a fall compared with last year.
The squeeze on places has led some over-subscribed schools to run controversial “lotteries” in which names are effectively picked from a hat.
The system is employed to stop middle-class parents jumping the queue for the best schools by buying homes in the catchment area.
Lotteries are believed to be used in at least one school in a third of local authorities. Hertfordshire council told the Telegraph yesterday that seven schools had employed the system.
Michael Gove, shadow schools secretary, said: “Unfortunately too often too many parents don’t get the school they want. The reality is that it is only the rich who can guarantee the kind of education they want for their children.” "

Friday, March 12, 2010

Congressional briefing on market design

CONSORTIUM OF SOCIAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATIONS

You are invited to a Congressional Briefing on

“Better Living through Economics: How Fundamental Economic Research Improves People’s Lives”
March 15, 2010, 12:00-1:30
B338 Rayburn House Office Building

Better Living Through Economics (Harvard University Press 2010) illustrates the fundamental contributions of economic research to important public policy decisions through twelve case studies. A panel of distinguished scholars will discuss some of these examples of how basic economic research by academic economists has improved people’s lives and continues to impact policy decisions.

Speakers:

Brigitte Madrian, Harvard Kennedy School: “More Saving and Better Retirements.”

Lawrence Ausubel, University of Maryland, “The Greatest Auction in History: Raising Billions from the Communications Spectrum

Alvin Roth, Harvard University, “Improved Markets for Doctors, Organ Transplants and School Choice

John Siegfried, Vanderbilt University, “Cheaper Airfares, Welfare Reform and an All-Volunteer Military

Sponsored by: The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA)
A box lunch will be served. This is a widely attended event!
Positive RSVPs to cossa@cossa.org or 202/842-3525.

Elliott Spitzer on government’s role in the market

Government’s proper role in the market, in the Boston Review.

Spitzer writes from the point of view of a former Attorney General of New York (as opposed to real estate heir, former Governor, or Greek tragedian).

"To sum up, I want to leave you with ten points:
• Only government can enforce integrity and transparency in the marketplace; self-regulation is a failure.
• Only government can take necessary steps to overcome market failures, such as negative externalities or monopoly power.
• Only government can act to preserve certain core values in the market, such as prohibitions on discrimination.
• Too-big-to-fail is too-big-not-to-fail.
• We’re suffering from the Peter Principle on Steroids, and it will get us into deeper trouble.
• Taxpayers have been getting the short end of the stick in everything we’ve been doing. The Treasury Department is not negotiating for us.
• Risk is real, and no complex scheme of financial instruments can make it go away.
• We have de-leveraged the wrong way, by socializing risks and privatizing benefits. The government has accepted all the debt obligations of the private sector, and taxpayers now owe this money.
• The only way to reform corporate governance is to get the owners—the shareholders—of companies involved and actually paying attention.
• All of this is very tough: being able to diagnose a problem is a whole lot easier than mustering the will to fix it. "

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wikis

My busy sometimes co-blogger Peter writes:


"I was just reading about the company "Wikia," which is owned by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Interestingly, he #2 most active wiki is an academic jobs info wiki:

http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Humanities_and_Social_Science_Postdocs_2009-2010

(The most active wiki is lostpedia, the wiki about the TV Series LOST)

Law faculty recruitment

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) helps organize law faculty recruitment, with services including a database of candidates called the Faculty Appointments Register, a job advertisement service called the Placement Bulletin, and a dedicated Faculty Recruitment Conference (different from the annual meeting of the organization), which this year took place Nov 5-7.


Here's an account of the experience from a survivor: One Candidate's Experience in the AALS Hiring Process

"As you can imagine, my experience at the hiring conference mainly consisted of running up and down staircases, from one building to the next and back again. I scheduled 15 interviews on Friday and began my day with seven back-to-back. My eight years of competitive speech tournaments, which also consisted of running from room to room talking all day long, were good preparation. I think the best advice that I got about the hiring conference was from Dean Blake Morant, who advised the candidates at an opening session to “be our most authentic selves” and “bring up the energy level in the room” during each interview. "
...
"One of the most interesting and craze-inducing aspects of the hiring process was the law school hiring discussion on Prawfs Blawg. The four threads, which began on August 19th, have received well over 1300 comments. I admit that I read the threads nearly every day in the weeks before and after the hiring conference. I’m not sure that I know why, except that I felt that I was part of a large anonymous community of people who were just as freaked out and insecure as I was. I suppose its better to be in such a community of such people than be alone.
If I have learned anything from this process, it is that nobody really knows the secret to success and, in fact, the process is so individualized to particular hiring committees in a particular year at a particular school, that there likely is no secret. This is extremely frustrating to wanna-be law professors because we are analytical people. We (sometimes desperately) want to know the rules and the facts so that we can weigh our odds and predict our futures.
One big gaping hole getting in the way of our analysis is the lack of data on the members of the candidate pool. A few schools do a great job advising their alumni and keeping track of those in the process (shout out to Akiba Covitz!). Most don’t, and nobody aggregates that data. It appears that AALS doesn’t release it either (other than to the schools in the FAR forms themselves). So the candidates are left to guess who their competition is and how they stack up."


HT: faculty lounge

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baby Markets

I've just ordered this new book (only in part to find out why the ratio of female to male authors is drawn from such a different distribution than most discussions of market design and repugnance...):

Baby Markets
Money and the New Politics of Creating Families
Edited by Michele Bratcher Goodwin
University of Minnesota
Published February 2010
View Table of Contents as PDF (94KB) Baby Markets
Cambridge University Press
9780521513739

Contents
PART ONE. WHAT MAKES A MARKET? EFFICIENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND RELIABILITY OR GETTING THE BABIES WE WANT

1 Baby Markets
Michele Bratcher Goodwin

2 The Upside of Baby Markets
Martha Ertman

3 Price and Pretense in the Baby Market
Kimberly D. Krawiec

4 Bringing Feminist Fundamentalism to U.S. Baby Markets
Mary Anne Case

5 Producing Kinship through the Marketplaces of Transnational Adoption
Sara Dorow

PART TWO. SPACE AND PLACE: REPRODUCING AND REFRAMING SOCIAL NORMS OF RACE, CLASS, GENDER, AND OTHERNESS

6 Adoption Laws and Practices: Serving Whose Interests?
Ruth-Arlene W. Howe

7 International Adoption: The Human Rights Issues
Elizabeth Bartholet

8 Heterosexuality as a Prenatal Social Problem: Why Parents and Courts Have a Taste for Heterosexuality
José Gabilondo

9 Transracial Adoption of Black Children: An Economic Analysis
Mary Eschelbach Hansen and Daniel Pollack

PART THREE.SPECTRUMS AND DISCOURSES: RIGHTS, REGULATIONS, AND CHOICE

10 Reproducing Dreams
Naomi Cahn

11 Why Do Parents Have Rights?: The Problem of Kinship in Liberal Thought
Maggie Gallagher


12 Free Markets, Free Choice?: A Market Approach to Reproductive Rights
Debora L. Spar

13 Commerce and Regulation in the Assisted Reproduction Industry
John A. Robertson

14 Ethics within Markets or a Market for Ethics?: Can Disclosure of Sperm Donor Identity Be Effectively Mandated?
June Carbone and Paige Gottheim

PART FOUR.THE ETHICS OF BABY AND EMBRYO MARKETS

15 Egg Donation for Research and Reproduction: The Compensation Conundrum
Nanette R. Elster

16 Eggs, Nests, and Stem Cells
Lisa C. Ikemoto

17 Where Stem Cell Research Meets Abortion Politics: Limits on Buying and Selling Human Oocytes
Michelle Oberman, Leslie Wolf, and Patti Zettler

PART FIVE.TENUOUS GROUNDS AND BABY TABOOS

18 Risky Exchanges
Viviana A. Zelizer

19 Giving In to Baby Markets
Sonia Suter

Concluding Thoughts
Michele Bratcher Goodwin


HT: Kim Krawiec

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kidney exchange news from Britain

David Manlove writes:

Dear Al,

I just wanted to pass on some KE news: the first 3-way kidney exchange in the UK has just been announced:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8552162.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8554930.stm
http://www.hta.gov.uk/newsandevents/htanews.cfm/837-First-pooled-transplants-performed-in-the-UK.html

Also I've been successful with a grant proposal to NHS Blood and Transplant and they will be funding us (i.e., me and former PhD student Gregg O'Malley; hopefully Peter Biro will be involved too) to work for a year on delivering a software package to enable them to carry out the quarterly matching runs for themselves, without having to send the data to us. The NHSBT collaboration builds on the work we've been doing together over the last 3 or so years (we've been involved in the quarterly matching runs since July 2008): http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ukt/about_transplants/organ_allocation/kidney_(renal)/living_donation/paired_donation_matching_scheme.jsp.

Our paper describing some aspects of this work appeared in the new journal Discrete Mathematics, Algorithms and Applications (vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 499-517, 2009, here. Also here are some slides from a talk I gave at a workshop in Bristol last year: http://www.cs.bris.ac.uk/Research/Algorithms/BAD09/Talks/BAD09-Manlove.pdf. I will be giving an updated version at a workshop on Matching Theory and Mechanism Design organised by Elena Inarra in Oxford next Tuesday.

Hopefully NHSBT will be bringing in domino paired chains triggered by altruistic donors in the near future - we are still trying to convince them of the merits of never ending altruistic chains!

Best regards,
David
The University of Glasgow, charity number SC004401

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reading, writing and apologizing about repugnant transactions: Repugnance at multiple levels

A story in Al Jazeera concerns conflicting views of repugnant transactions--things that some people think other people shouldn't do--on multiple levels. The story concerns judicial flogging of women for adultery in Malaysia, a newspaper editorial against that practice by a non-Muslim editor, a government threat to close the newspaper for publishing the editorial, and a religious ruling that Muslims should not read the editorial.

The Al Jazeera story is here: Malaysia - Caning the messenger?

The Malaysian newspaper, The Star, has withdrawn the editorial from its website, but the Al Jazeera story concludes with this paragraph containing a link to a copy of the offending editorial:

"For people who want to make up their own mind about the issue, the text is still available here, but here's a clear warning, this article has already been deemed unacceptable by some Muslims. Those who agree with Mais - that non-Muslims should not comment on matters pertaining to shariah law - are strongly advised not to follow the link."

The multiple levels of repugnance remind me of another recent story in the news: Danish newspaper provokes uproar with apology over Muhammad cartoon
"A Danish newspaper was accused yesterday of betraying the freedom of the press after it apologised to Muslims for offence caused by its reprinting a cartoon showing the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban.
Politiken, a leading Danish newspaper, had printed the cartoon as a gesture of solidarity after three people were arrested for planning to kill the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard. "

I guess I'll have to add reading and apologizing to my growing list of repugnant transactions, which already included adultery and publishing.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Tissue rights"

Who has the rights to a cell line created from cancerous tissue? The NY Times reviews the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (Crown Publishers), by the journalist Rebecca Skloot.

A Lasting Gift to Medicine That Wasn’t Really a Gift

"The notion of “tissue rights” has inspired a new category of activists. The question that comes up repeatedly is, if scientists or companies can commercialize a patient’s cells or tissues, doesn’t that patient, as provider of the raw material, deserve a say about it and maybe a share of any profits that result? Fewer people these days may be willing to take no for an answer. "

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Embryo exchange in Georgia

It's not what it sounds like, and it doesn't have tax consequences:

Embryo Exchanges and Adoption Tax Credits by
Sarah B. Lawsky and Naomi Cahn

Abstract: The “Option of Adoption Act,” a Georgia law that was introduced by a staunchly anti-abortion Georgia state representative, establishes procedures for genetic donors to relinquish their rights to embryos before birth and permits, but does not require, embryo recipients to petition a court for recognition that they are the legal parents of a child born to them as a result of an embryo transfer. This article clears up what seems to be widespread confusion about a fairly straightforward question of tax law related to such embryo “adoptions.” Notwithstanding various sources' claims to the contrary, neither a Georgia adoption tax credit nor a federal adoption tax credit is available for “adopting” an embryo.

Matching for adoption

"In most cases, a successful domestic adoption is the result of a match between a birth mother (BMO hereafter) who seeks to relinquish her child, and prospective adoptive parents (PAPs hereafter). The underlying matching process involves a bilateral search characterized by several layers of mediation: Typically, adoption agencies represent BMOs, while PAPs work vis-à-vis adoption agencies, lawyers, or facilitators. In this paper, we exploit the unique nature of a new data set documenting the operations of an adoption facilitator. We analyze the preferences of PAPs over the attributes of babies relinquished for adoption, the BMOs’ choices, and the factors that determine ultimate outcomes (i.e., a successful adoption, a decision to parent by the BMO, or the child’s placement in foster care).

That is from the paper Gender and Racial Biases: Evidence from Child Adoption, by Mariagiovanna Baccara , Allan Collard-Wexler, Leonardo Felli , and Leeat Yariv.

The paper has a market design aspect:
"Despite the social value of a well-functioning matching process that delivers suitable parents to every child, adoption has not received much attention by the economics literature. Our analysis of parents’ preferences, combined with the identification of factors facilitating an ultimate match, opens the door to policy interventions aimed at increasing the efficiency of this process."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Same sex marriage in Mexico City: starting today

Gay Marriage Puts Mexico City at Center of Debate : "A new Mexico City law goes into effect March 4 that will allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children, propelling the city to the forefront of the global gay rights movement."
The law seems to have survived the expected judicial challenge: Mexico's Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Law , and here's a nice story about the (ongoing) debate in yesterday's Washington Post, With same-sex marriage law, Mexico City becomes battleground in culture wars

Here are my other posts on same sex marriage, which strikes me as an excellent example of how views and laws can change regarding repugnant transactions.

Same sex marriage in Washington D.C., starting yesterday

Gay Marriage Is Now Legal in Washington
"Gay-rights advocates hailed the day as a milestone for equal rights and a symbolic victory as same-sex marriage became legal in the nation’s capital.
Washington is now the sixth place in the nation where same-sex marriages can take place. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont also issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Despite failing in court, opponents of the law vowed to fight another day. "

And here is the failure in court:
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES No. 09A807
HARRY R. JACKSON ET AL. v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND ETHICS ET AL. ON APPLICATION FOR STAY
[March 2, 2010] CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, Circuit Justice.

"Petitioners in this case are Washington D. C. voters who would like to subject the District of Columbia’s ReligiousFreedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 to a public referendum before it goes into effect... Without addressing the merits of petitioners’ underlying claim, however, I conclude that a stay is not warranted. "

Same sex unions in the Anglican church

Across the pond: Anglican bishops back end to ban on gay civil partnerships in church "Gay couples could soon be allowed to “marry” in church after a decision by Anglican bishops and other clergy to support a relaxation of the ban. Senior bishops in the Lords have told The Times that they will support an amendment to the Equality Bill next month that will lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises. The amendment would remove the legislative prohibition on blessings of homosexual couples and open the door to the registration of civil partnerships in churches, synagogues, mosques and all other religious premises." ... "The Church of England, which along with the wider Anglican Communion is divided over gay ordinations and same-sex blessings, will maintain its official ban. But if the legislative prohibition is lifted, as seems likely, the Church’s own ban is likely to be ignored by some clergy." ... "The Quakers have called for the law to be changed to give same-sex partners the same status in their ceremonies as heterosexual couples. They joined forces with Liberal Judaism and the Unitarians to support an amendment to the Equality Bill giving religious organisations the freedom to register civil partnerships. Lord Alli’s amendment would remove the bar in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 on religious premises being used for civil partnerships — and also the prohibition on religious language being used in such ceremonies. This would in effect end any remaining distinction between civil partnerships and marriage and increase the pressure on the established Church to take a more liberal line on same-sex relationships. It would also deepen the schism in the Anglican Communion over gay blessings and gay ordination."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Academic job markets in the Humanities

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has issued a new report as a result of a set of surveys of Humanities departments. Here is the announcement:

"Challenges to Humanities Revealed in New Survey
The humanities continue to play a core role in higher education and student interest is strong, but to meet the demand, four-year colleges and universities are increasingly relying on a part-time, untenured workforce. Those are among the findings from the Humanities Departmental Survey. The survey includes data collected from English, foreign language, history, history of science, art history, linguistics, and religion departments at approximately 1,400 colleges and universities. It is the first comprehensive survey to provide general cross-disciplinary data on humanities departments. "

"Across the humanities, but especially in English and combined English/foreign language departments, the professoriate at four-year colleges and universities is evolving into a part-time workforce. During the 2006-2007 academic year, only 38 percent of faculty members in these departments were tenured. English departments had the greatest proportion of non-tenure-track faculty (49 percent)."

HT: Paul Karoff

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Assisted suicide, the debate continues in England and Switzerland

Assisted suicide, a widely repugnant transaction, continues to be the subject of public discussion in England. The Telegraph reports a new poll: Assisted suicide: 4 in 5 say do not prosecute.

"The public’s support for a change in the law on assisted suicide and euthanasia was uncovered by the YouGov poll following a succession of high profile court cases.
Three quarters of those polled said the law should be amended to allow assisted suicide, a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison. "...

"Sir Terry Pratchett, the author who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, is due to deliver a lecture in which he will call for assisted suicide "tribunals" that would give the terminally ill permission to end their lives. In the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, he will offer himself as a test case for just such a tribunal... Sir Terry, who prefers the term "assisted death", will say that permission to end his life will make each day more precious, and that doctors should not be forced to help the terminally ill to die. ... "If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice." "

The WSJ has an article about the Swiss assisted suicide clinic Dignitas, and the debate going on in Switzerland about the the laws governing assisted suicide:
Assisted-Suicide Pioneer Stirs a Legal Backlash

"From the start, Mr. Minelli has kicked up controversy for his willingness to help foreigners die. Most groups in Switzerland don't assist foreigners. Dignitas only helps foreigners. The number of foreigners Dignitas helps each year—132 in 2007, compared to 91 in 2003—has increasingly left the Swiss uncomfortable with the country's growing reputation for "suicide tourism." As of the end of last year, Dignitas had helped a total of 1,046 people to commit suicide. "...

"Under Swiss law, it is illegal for a person to assist a suicide for their own "selfish" reasons. But there are otherwise no limits on helping someone to die. By contrast, most countries allowing assisted suicide require the person to be terminally ill or demand that a doctor assist the suicide. Switzerland is also the only country permitting right-to-die organizations to help foreigners die.
"At the moment, there is really no law," says Andreas Brunner, a Zurich prosecutor who has fought for greater restrictions on right-to-die organizations, particularly Dignitas. "You have to have some rules and standards. The worst solution is what we have now."
As medical advances prolong lives even for the seriously ill, the debate over assisted suicide is surging elsewhere.
In Oregon—the one state in the U.S. where assisted suicide is legal—doctors are allowed to help only state residents who are expected to die within six months.
The U.K., which has restrictive laws on euthanasia, was forced in a court case last fall to clarify whether it would prosecute Britons who help family members make the trip to Switzerland to die. (It won't.) Luxembourg legalized euthanasia last year. Activists in Belgium and the Netherlands are pushing to broaden the group of patients who can avail themselves of assisted suicide to the elderly, minors and chronically ill. "...

"In 2008, when neighbors' complaints forced Dignitas out of the rented apartment it had long used for suicides, Zurich city officials refused permission for a new venue.
So, Mr. Minelli organized suicides in cars, a hotel room and his own home, drawing the ire of local officials. For a time, he was forced to use the industrial site criticized by Mr. Gall. "Someone who is used to a five-star hotel can't come to Dignitas and expect the same," Mr. Minelli says.
The Zurich prosecutor's office spoke with family members who complained about the 10,000-Swiss-franc fee Mr. Minelli charges people to die, but found insufficient grounds to open an inquiry. One rival right-to-die organization asks for nothing beyond a 45-Swiss-franc membership fee, while another charges 4,000 Swiss francs. Mr. Minelli says the fee helps with his legal and lobbying expenses. "...

"Mr. Minelli argues that making assisted suicide available removes a taboo around suicide, helping people who want to kill themselves open a dialogue and seek help. About 70% of people who get the green light from Dignitas for an assisted suicide never contact the group again, proving the palliative effect of knowing help is available, he says. "
...
"A vote is planned in March on a bill that would sharply restrict the activities of right-to-die organizations. For instance, two doctors must testify that a person is terminally ill, thus ruling out assistance for the chronically or mentally ill. The person seeking help must have given long consideration to his wish to die before doctors can prescribe lethal drugs. Moreover, right-to-die groups would be barred from accepting payments beyond those covering the costs of the suicide. The government also tabled a second bill that would ban assisted suicides altogether. "

The debate has taken a dramatic turn, beginning with a BBC narrator stating on air “I killed someone once.”
The Prime Minister has weighed in too: Gordon Brown: don't legalise assisted suicide.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Economics job market scramble

If you are a new economics Ph.D. and the market is going slowly, hang in there. Similarly if you are a department or other employer who is still trying to fill a position. There's still lots of action left in the market.

If you are still on the market near the end of March, you should think about registering for the 2010 Job Market Scramble

Important Dates:
March 23: Registration will Open
March 30: Registration will Close
April 1-12: Scramble Website will open for viewing by registered participants only
April 12: Scramble Viewing will Close

See the Scramble Guide for more detailed information.

Brief Description:
Occasionally prospective employers of new Ph.D. economists exhaust their candidates before hiring someone during the winter/spring "job market" period. Similarly, new economics Ph.D.s seeking a job sometimes find that all of the prospective employers with whom they have interviewed have hired someone else before they have secured an appointment.
To address these problems, the AEA has established a "Job Market Scramble" web site to facilitate communication between employers and job seekers in late spring. In March, employers that continue to have an open position previously listed in Job Openings for Economists (JOE) may post a short notice of its availability (with a link to the JOE listing). Similarly, new or recent economics Ph.D. job seekers still looking for a position may post a short announcement of their continued availability, with a link to their application materials (C.V., papers, references). The web site will open for viewing to those who have listed a position or availability soon after listings close. There is no charge for the "Job Market Scramble."

In each of the last four years between 67 and 100 employers have participated in the scramble, and (despite low response rates to the post scramble survey of participants) the AEA's Ad Hoc Committee on the Job Market (which I chair) has been able to confirm that more than 10% of the jobs offered through the scramble have been filled through contacts initiated via the scramble.