Sunday, October 21, 2018

Matching with complex constraints

At the NBER market design conference yesterday, Fuhito Kojima spoke about his paper with Yuchiro Kamada on matching with 'upper bound' constraints of the kind that occur in matching children to day care in Japan.

Here's the paper:


Abstract. This paper studies a general model of matching with constraints. Observing that a stable matching typically does not exist, we focus on feasible, individually rational, and fair matchings. We characterize such matchings by fixed points of a certain function. Building on this result, we characterize the class of constraints on individual schools under which there exists a student-optimal fair matching (SOFM), the matching that is the most preferred by every student among those satisfying the three desirable properties. We study the numerical relevance of our theory using data on governmentorganized
daycare allocation.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Centralized Admissions for Engineering Colleges in India

Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear Yash Kanoria discuss the implementation and operation of a centralized college admissions system for engineering colleges in India.  It replaces a semi-centralized process that left some seats unfilled (when IIT and non-IIT seats were allocated to the same people).

There are some novel constraints that have to be satisfied, some of which can theoretically present intractable problems, but in practice they don't.

An appendix on history and background is a quick education in Indian education.

Below is a link to the paper, which seems to be a fine example of market design as economic engineering, which solved some important problems and has now operated successfully for several years. There are also problems (e.g. concerning vacancies in non-IITs) left to solve...:

Centralized Admissions for Engineering Colleges in India
by Surender Baswana, Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, Sharat Chandran, Yashodhan Kanoria, Utkarsh Patange

Abstract We designed and implemented a new joint seat allocation process for undergraduate admissions to over 500 programs spread across 80 technical universities in India, including the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Our process is based on the well known Deferred Acceptance algorithm, but complex affirmative action seat reservations led us to make a number of algorithmic innovations, including (i) a carefully constructed heuristic for incorporating non-nested common quotas that span multiple programs, (ii) a method to utilize unfilled reserved seats with no modifications to the core software, and (iii) a robust approach to reduce variability in the number of reserved category candidates admitted, while retaining fairness. Our new seat allocation process went live in 2015, and based on its success, including significant and provable reduction in vacancies, it has remained in successful use since, with continuing improvements.

Friday, October 19, 2018

NBER Market Design Conference at Stanford, October 19-20

Here's the program and participant list:

Friday, October 19
8:30 am
Continental Breakfast
9:00 am
Olivier Terceiux, Top Trading Cycles in Prioritized Markets, a synthesis of:
Yeon-Koo Che, Columbia University
Olivier Tercieux, Paris School of Economics
Top Trading Cycles in Prioritized Matching: An Irrelevance of Priorities in Large Markets
Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Duke University and NBER
Yeon-Koo Che, Columbia University
Parag A. Pathak, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NBER
Alvin E. Roth, Stanford University and NBER
Olivier Tercieux, Paris School of Economics
Minimizing Justified Envy in School Choice: The Design of New Orleans’ OneApp
9:45 am
Surender Baswana, IIT Kanpur
Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, IIT Kharagpur
Sharat Chandran, IIT Bombay
Yash Kanoria, Columbia University
Utkarsh Patange, Columbia University
Centralized Admissions for Engineering Colleges in India
10:30 am
11:00 am
Onur Kesten, Carnegie Mellon University
Selcuk Ozyurt, Sabanci University
Efficient and Incentive Compatible Mediation: An Ordinal Market Design Approach
11:45 am
Dirk Bergemann, Yale University
Benjamin A. Brooks, University of Chicago
Stephen Morris, Princeton University
Revenue Guarantee Equivalence
12:30 pm
Lunch Talk
Michael Schwarz, Microsoft
Market Design, Reputation Systems, UX, and the Cost of User Time
2:00 pm
Xiao Liu, Tsinghua University
Zhixi Wan, Didi Chuxing Technology Co.
Chenyu Yang, University of Rochester
The Efficiency of A Dynamic Decentralized Two-Sided Matching Market
2:45 pm
Hongyao Ma, Harvard University
Fei Fang, Carnegie Mellon University
David Parkes, Harvard University
Spatio-Temporal Pricing for Ridesharing Platforms
3:30 pm
4:00 pm
Mohammad Akbarpour, Stanford University
Farshad Fatemi, Sharif University of Technology
Negar Matoorian, Stanford University
A Monetary Market for Kidneys
4:45 pm
Alvin E. Roth, Stanford University and NBER
Recent Developments in Kidney Exchange: Market Design in a Large World
5:30 pm
6:30 pm
Joya Restaurant
339 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA
Saturday, October 20
8:30 am
Continental Breakfast
9:00 am
Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Duke University and NBER
Joshua Angrist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NBER
Yusuke Narita, Yale University
Parag A. Pathak, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NBER
Impact Evaluation in Matching Markets with General Tie-Breaking
9:45 am
Yuichiro Kamada, Harvard University
Fuhito Kojima, Stanford University
Fair Matching under Constraints: Theory and Applications (slides)
10:30 am
11:00 am
Tamas Fleiner, Budapest University of Technology and Economics
Ravi Jagadeesan, Harvard University
Zsuzsanna Jankó, Corvinus University
Alexander Teytelboym, University of Oxford
Trading Networks with Frictions
11:45 am
Piotr Dworczak, Northwestern University
Scott Duke Kominers, Harvard University
Mohammad Akbarpour, Stanford University
Redistribution through Markets
12:30 pm

Participant List
Atila Abdulkadiroglu Duke University and NBER
Nikhil Agarwal Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NBER
Mohammad Akbarpour Stanford University
Nick Arnosti Columbia University
Susan Athey Stanford University and NBER
Lawrence Ausubel University of Maryland
Moshe Babaioff Microsoft Research
Aaron L. Bodoh-Creed University of California at Berkeley
Eric Budish University of Chicago and NBER
Jeremy I. Bulow Stanford University and NBER
Gabriel Carroll Stanford University
Yeon-Koo Che Columbia University
Laura Doval California Institute of Technology
Jeremy T. Fox Rice University and NBER
Guillaume Haeringer Baruch College
Jonathan Hall Uber Technologies
John W. Hatfield University of Texas, Austin
Yinghua He Rice University
Ravi Jagadeesan Harvard University
Yuichiro Kamada Harvard University
Yash Kanoria Columbia University
Adam Kapor Princeton University and NBER
Jakub Kastl Princeton University and NBER
Onur Kesten Carnegie Mellon University
Fuhito Kojima Stanford University
Scott Duke Kominers Harvard University
Nicolas S. Lambert Stanford University
Shengwu Li Harvard University
Shuya Li Carnegie Mellon University
Hongyao Ma Harvard University
Mohammad Mahdian Google Research
Negar Matoorian Stanford University
Stephen Morris Princeton University
Yusuke Narita Yale University
Hamid Nazerzadeh University of Southern California
Afshin Nikzad Stanford University
Michael Ostrovsky Stanford University and NBER
Selcuk Ozyurt Sabanci University
Utkarsh Patange Columbia University
Parag A. Pathak Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NBER
Ali O. Polat Carnegie Mellon University
Daniel Quint University of Wisconsin
David H. Reiley Jr. Pandora Media, Inc
Alvin E. Roth Stanford University and NBER
Daniela Saban Stanford University
Michael Schwarz Microsoft
Ilya Segal Stanford University
Sven Seuken University of Zurich
Kane Sweeney eBay Research Labs
Steven Tadelis University of California at Berkeley and NBER
Olivier Tercieux Paris School of Economics
Zhixi Wan Didi Chuxing Technology Co.
Robert Wilson Stanford University
Xingye Wu Tsinghua University
Chenyu Yang University of Rochester
Haoxiang Zhu Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NBER

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Cannabis in Canada--legal since yesterday

Here's yesterday's headline in The Globe and Mail:
Green dawn: The first day of cannabis legalization in Canada, from coast to coast

"From St. John’s to Vancouver, from Southern Ontario to the Far North, Canada’s nearly century-old prohibition on recreational cannabis lifted on Wednesday – and in Ottawa, the federal government is expected to announce how those convicted of possession under the old laws will be able to apply for pardons.

"Not everyone who wants to smoke up on the first day will be able to: Relatively few bricks-and-mortar stores are open, and in Ontario, the most populous province, online retail is the only option until physical stores get the go-ahead next year. Retailers are warning of shortages in the first few weeks, and at the production end, suppliers face formidable obstacles to catch up with expected demand."

Here's the story in the WSJ:
Cannabis is now legal in Canada, but pot companies expect a rocky start

"After nearly a century of prohibition, Canada became only the second country in the world, and the only member of the G-7, to legalize the drug for recreational use. Marijuana is officially legal in Canada.
"With little history or precedent for Canada to follow, the early months of recreational cannabis sales face ambitious timelines set by the governing party, a different set of laws in each of the country’s 10 provinces, and potential supply shortages as Canada’s federally licensed producers expand production.
"There are also a shortage of retail locations. In the country’s most populous province, Ontario, there are no bricks-and-mortar stores open on Wednesday, and won’t be for months. After a new government took power in a recent election, Ontario opted to sell pot online via a government-run store and allow private companies to open up stores on the ground. In Quebec, the second most populous province, there will only be a handful of stores around the two major cities, Montreal and Quebec City."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The FATE of technology at Penn, today

Fairness, Accountability, Transparency and Ethics are topics on which economics and computer science intersect each other , and some other fields as well:

The “FATE” of Technology: Fairness, Accountability, Transparency and Ethics

October 17, 2018 | Glandt Forum, Singh Center for Nanotechnology
Wednesday, October 17th, 2018
Glandt Forum, Singh Center for Nanotechnology
Celebrating Five Years of the Warren Center
Reception to follow

1:00 pm: Welcome and brief remarks
Michael Kearns, Professor and National Center Chair of Computer and Information Science
Rakesh VohraGeorge A. Weiss and Lydia Bravo Weiss University Professor
1:10 pm: Aaron Roth, Class of 1940 Bicentennial Term Associate Professor of Computer and Information Science
“Ethical Algorithms”
1:30 pm: Annie LiangAssistant Professor of Economics
“Predicting and Understanding Human Behaviors through Machine Learning”
1:50 pm: Sandra González-BailónAssociate Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication
“Digital Technologies and Access to News”
2:15 pm: Break
2:30 pm: Panel with members of the Warren Center
Emily Falk, Associate Professor of Communication, Psychology, and Marketing
Junhyong Kim, Patricia M. Williams Term Professor of Biology
Konrad Kording, Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor of Neuroscience and Bioengineering
3:00 pm: Keynote: Matthew SalganikProfessor of Sociology, Princeton University
“The Fragile Families Challenge”
4:00 pm: Michael Kearns, Professor and National Center Chair of Computer and Information Science
“The AlgoWatch Initiative”
4:30 pm: Concluding remarks by Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Kim Krawiec on Repugnant Markets

One of my favorite scholars on one of my favorite subjects:

"In this episode, Kimberly D. Krawiec, Kathrine Robinson Everett Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, discusses her scholarship on "repugnant markets" or "taboo trades," including prostitution and kidneys. Listeners might be interested in her papers "If We Pay Football Players, Why Not Kidney Donors?"; "If We Allow Football Players and Boxers to Be Paid for Entertaining the Public, Why Don't We Allow Kidney Donors to Be Paid for Saving Lives?"; "Repugnance Management and Transactions in the Body"; "Organ Entrepreneurs"; and "Contract Development in a Matching Market: The Case of Kidney Exchange." Of course, there are many more excellent papers on her SSRN page."

On her own blog linking to the podcast, Kim also included links to the following papers:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Quartz writes about Uber and other tech firms that hire economists

Here's the story, which prominently features Uber's Jonathan Hall:

Uber’s secret weapon is its team of economists
By Alison Griswold, October 14, 2018

"Uber is so fond of economists that it employs more than a dozen PhDs from top programs at its San Francisco headquarters. The group acts as an in-house think tank for Uber, gathering facts from quants and data scientists and synthesizing them to arm the lobbyists and policy folks who fight some of Uber’s biggest battles. Officially, this team is known as “Research and Economics.” Internally, it’s also been called Ubernomics.
"The Krueger paper was the launch pad Ubernomics needed. Over the next few years, the company landed unpaid collaborations with academics at top US universities, including MIT, NYU, and Yale. Hall started to receive dozens of requests a week from academics about working with Uber’s data. Earlier this year, Richard Thaler, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in economic sciences, approached Uber about a possible collaboration. Uber turned him down."

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Joshua Gans on blockchains, teams, and the startup (Covee) that wants to combine them

From Joshua Gans, who is one of the most thoughtful commentators on matters digital:

Can the blockchain make teams work?

"For context, here is the problem Covee are trying to solve. When you have teams of knowledge workers who need to come together for a project, we rely on businesses to manage and coordinate those teams. This is because you need to find the right people to perform the team’s tasks and then you need to ensure that everyone does what they are supposed to. Businesses solve that problem by making team members employees and learning about them. They can then use this to review performance and reward or punish them as need be. Covee wants to take the business out of the equation and, as much as possible, replace it with an algorithm on the blockchain. In doing so, it has to automate what the businesses were doing."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Child marriage in the United States

The Washington Post has the story:

"Between 2000 and 2010, an estimated 248,000 children were married, most of whom were girls, some as young as 12, wedding men. Now, under pressure from advocates and amid a nationwide reckoning over gender equality and sexual misconduct, states have begun ending exceptions that have allowed marriages for people younger than 18, the minimum age in most states. Texas last year banned it, except for emancipated minors. Kentucky outlawed it, except for 17-year-olds with parental and judicial approval. Maryland considered increasing the minimum marrying age from 15, but its bill failed to pass in April. Then in May, Delaware abolished the practice under every circumstance, and New Jersey did the same in June. Pennsylvania, which may vote to eliminate all loopholes this autumn, could be next."

Friday, October 12, 2018

Coffee for personal data

Inside Higher Ed has the story:
Café Swaps Espresso for Personal Info
A Japanese café chain plans to spread among Ivy League and other top campuses, offering free coffee and tea in exchange for students' personal information and consent to be contacted by companies.

"The cashless Shiru cafés give out handmade coffee and tea drinks for free. In exchange, students flash a university ID and, in the bargain, hand over a small cache of personal information: name, age, email address, interests, major and graduation year, among other details. They also agree to be contacted by Shiru’s corporate sponsors, who underwrite all those cappuccinos, matcha lattes and iced Americanos.
"Starbucks, meet LinkedIn … with extra foam.
"[at Brown University]...“I don’t get the feeling from my classmates that they’re trying to reduce their data footprint.”

Thursday, October 11, 2018

An online spot market for lawyers

Need a lawyer, but not a big law firm?  A Britain-based firm, Lexoo, will recommend lawyers they think are appropriate for your case, and let you get bids from them online:

"Lexoo is an online platform for businesses, that lets you easily source and compare quotes from our curated network of specialised commercial lawyers and quality boutique firms, worldwide. Our team of ex-City lawyers with over 45 years of combined legal experience, ensure you only receive proposals from the most suitable lawyers for your work."

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Faculty openings at Stanford Management Science and Engineering

Faculty Openings in MS&E

Position Title
Tenure-track Assistant Professor/Untenured Associate Professor
Position Description
We invite applications from individuals working at the frontiers of Management Science and Engineering, broadly defined, including candidates from engineering and the mathematical, computational, medical, physical, and behavioral and social sciences.
Appointments are to tenure-line junior faculty positions at the Assistant or untenured Associate Professor level. Please visit our website for more information about the MS&E Department at:
An earned PhD, evidence of the ability to pursue a program of research, and a strong commitment to graduate and undergraduate teaching are required. A successful candidate will be expected to teach courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels and to build and lead a team of graduate students in PhD research.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Family consent and opt-in versus opt-out organ donation

Here's a contribution to the discussion on how opt-out versus opt-in deceased donor laws might impact transplantation (as opposed to just registration) in countries in which family consent is needed before a deceased person's organs are donated.

 2018 Aug 16. doi: 10.1037/xap0000183. [Epub ahead of print]

Underlying wishes and nudged choices.


Is the inferred preference of a deceased relative to donate his or her organs stronger when the choice was made under a mandated rather than under an automatic default (i.e., nudged choice) legislative system? The answer to this is particularly important, because families can, and do, veto the choices of their deceased relatives. In three studies, we asked American and European participants from countries that have either a default opt-in or a default opt-out system to take on the role of a third party to judge the likelihood that an individual's "true wish" was to actually donate his or her organs, given that the decedent was registered to donate on the organ donation register. In each study participants were randomly assigned to one of four organ donation legislative systems (default opt-in, default opt-out, mandated choice, mandatory). Overall, regardless of which country participants came from, they perceived the donor's underlying preference to donate as stronger under the default opt-in and mandated choice systems as compared with the default opt-out and mandatory donor systems. We discuss the practical issues that result from using default systems in the domain of organ donation and propose potential ways to ameliorate the uncertainty around inferences of underlying preference from a nudged choice. 
HT Axel Ockenfels

Monday, October 8, 2018

2018 Exeter Prize to Shengwu Li (and a very strong shortlist)

On a day when it's likely that another prize in Economics will be announced (but before it has been), I'm happy to note the following announcement on the ESA googlegroup:

We are happy to announce the winner of the 2018 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 Shengwu Li (Harvard University) for his paper “Obviously Strategy-Proof Mechanisms”, published in the American Economic Review.
The paper proposes and analyzes a desirable property for mechanisms implementing social outcomes. A mechanism is a game whose rules are designed by a social planner for the purpose of implementing a certain desirable social outcome (e.g., efficiency or fairness). Such mechanisms are always designed under the assumption that the parties involved will play an equilibrium outcome. Strategy Proof mechanisms received special attention in the literature, because they implement an outcome that is not only an equilibrium, but also one with dominant strategies, i.e., no player can do anything better than playing the strategy that leads to the socially desirable outcome, no matter what other people are doing. Yet as experimental and empirical results have shown, in real life, strategy proof mechanisms don’t always guarantee that players will do what they are expected to do. This is mainly because the reasoning behind the “right thing to do” is often complicated even in cases that admit a dominant-strategy equilibrium (one prominent mechanism of this sort is the second-price auction). Li’s paper proposes a concept of “obvious mechanisms.” This mechanism not only admits a dominant-strategy equilibrium, but also guarantees that it is cognitively simple to confirm that playing anything else is irrational. Li’s approach allows us to make mechanism design theory more applicable, and closer to reality. It warns us against choosing social mechanisms that we as game theorists hold to be secure, but when applied in the real-world will prove to be too complicated for people to do the right thing.
The winning paper was selected by the panel of Rosemarie Nagel (Pompeu Fabra University), Michel Regenwetter (University of Illinois) and Eyal Winter (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Shengwu will be visiting the University of Exeter to receive the award and give a public lecture.
This year was again exceptionally competitive with a large number of excellent nominations. In addition to the winner, this year’s shortlist was:
Chew, Soo Hong, Bin Miao, and Songfa Zhong. "Partial ambiguity." Econometrica 85.4 (2017): 1239-1260.
Glover, Dylan, Amanda Pallais, and William Pariente. "Discrimination as a self-fulfilling prophecy: Evidence from French grocery stores." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 132.3 (2017): 1219-1260.

Kessler, Judd B. "Announcements of support and public good provision." American Economic Review 107.12 (2017): 3760-87.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Universal enrollment--embracing both district and charter schools--was once on the agenda in NYC

One cause of congestion in school choice systems is that if some students receive multiple offers of admissions, other students must wait for admission to a school they want, particularly if the system is so decentralized that a student is only discovered to have rejected an admissions offer after he or she doesn't show up for the first week of class. So a lot of the school choice work that Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Parag Pathak, Neil Dorosin and I have done through IIPSC is aimed at 'universal' enrollment systems, in which all schools take part.

This hasn't happened yet in NYC. So it is interesting that a lawsuit has brought to light emails which suggest that universal enrollment was as one point seriously considered by the city.

Chalkbeat has the story:

Mayor de Blasio almost proposed a universal enrollment system for district and charter schools, emails show  BY ALEX ZIMMERMAN

"Common — sometimes known as “universal” — enrollment systems exist in cities from Newark to Indianapolis. Backers of the approach argue it can simplify the often complex and time-intensive process required to apply to either district or charter schools in cities that allow parents to choose among both. Streamlining the process can put parents on equal footing instead of allowing those with more time, knowledge or resources from automatically getting a leg up
"Common enrollment systems have gained traction in recent years as some cities have embraced a “portfolio model” of schools, a new way of organizing school districts that has developed strong backing. This enrollment approach is central in New Orleans and Denver, which received input from Neil Dorosin, who created and once ran New York City’s high-school application system."

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Free versus predatory prices

Here's a new paper exploring the anti-competitive effects of giving things away for free:

An Introduction to the Competition Law and Economics of 'Free'

Forthcoming, Antitrust Chronicle, Competition Policy International
Many of the largest and most successful businesses today rely on providing service at no charge to at least a portion of their users. Free services often delight users, yet also create a series of challenges for competition policy, including impeding entry, inviting overproduction on quality, and increasing the risk of deception and overpayment. This short paper presents these problems, examines the strategies that entrants can attempt when competing with free service, and considers possible regulatory responses.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The broken refugee resettlement system

Yesterday I posted about progress being made in resettling refugees who have already been granted asylum in some host country.  A much harder political problem is matching refugees to countries that will grant them asylum. The NY Times has a story on those who have crossed the sea to Greece:

‘Better to Drown’: A Greek Refugee Camp’s Epidemic of Misery
By Patrick Kingsley

"The overcrowding is so extreme that asylum seekers spend as much as 12 hours a day waiting in line for food that is sometimes moldy. Last week, there were about 80 people for each shower, and around 70 per toilet, with aid workers complaining about raw sewage leaking into tents where children are living. Sexual assaults, knife attacks and suicide attempts are common.

"The conditions have fueled accusations that the camp has been left to fester in order to deter migration and that European Union funds provided to help Greece deal with asylum seekers are being misused. In late September, the European Union’s anti-fraud agency announced an investigation.
 "Outside Europe, the European Union has courted authoritarian governments in Turkey, Sudan and Egypt, while Italy has negotiated with warlords in Libya, in a successful effort to stem the flow of migrants toward the Mediterranean.

"Inside Europe itself, those who still make it to the Greek islands — about 23,000 have arrived this year, down from 850,000 in 2015 — must now stay at camps like Moria until their cases are settled. It can take as long as two years before the asylum seekers are either sent home or move on."

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Resettling refugees thoughtfully, by Trapp, Teytelboym, Martinello, Andersson, and Ahani

Here's a new paper, which emerges from a collaboration with my favorite refugee resettlement agency, the HIAS:

Placement Optimization in Refugee Resettlement
Andrew C. Trapp, Alexander Teytelboym, Alessandro Martinello,
Tommy Andersson, Narges Ahani

"This paper integrates machine learning and integer optimization technologies into the software Annie Moore (Matching and Outcome Optimization for Refugee Empowerment), named after Annie Moore, the first immigrant on record at Ellis Island, circa 1892. Annie is, to the best of our knowledge, the first software designed for resettlement agencies pre-arrival staff to recommend data driven, optimized matches between refugees and local affiliates while respecting refugee capacities. Annie was developed in close collaboration with representatives from all levels of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), where a first version was deployed in May 2018. New features were regularly added until August 2018 when it was presented to the US State Department and all staff at HIAS."

HT:  Tommy Andersson on the What are some dissertation-worthy topics in market design? thread at EconSpark

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Matching patients to health care in China

When I travel in China, one topic that often comes up is that there should be a better way of matching patients to doctors in Chinese hospitals.  Here's a story in the NY Times about that:

China’s Health Care Crisis: Lines Before Dawn, Violence and ‘No Trust’ 
By Sui-Lee Wee

"Well before dawn, nearly a hundred people stood in line outside one of the capital’s top hospitals.

"They were hoping to get an appointment with a specialist, a chance for access to the best health care in the country. Scalpers hawked medical visits for a fee, ignoring repeated crackdowns by the government.
"The long lines, a standard feature of hospital visits in China, are a symptom of a health care system in crisis.
"China has one general practitioner for every 6,666 people, compared with the international standard of one for every 1,500 to 2,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.

Instead of going to a doctor’s office or a community clinic, people rush to the hospitals to see specialists, even for fevers and headaches. "

An electronic board at the entrance of Peking Union Hospital displays the number of doctors available and their specialty.CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Is prostitution repugnant if the sex workers are robots?

The Guardian has the story:
Houston mayor pushes back against proposed 'robot brothel'
Sylvester Turner said the city is reviewing ordinances after Kinky S Dolls said it intends to open a ‘love dolls brothel’ there

"A Canadian company wants to open a so-called “robot brothel” in Houston, but is getting pushback from officials and community groups, with the mayor saying the city is reviewing its ordinances to determine if they address public safety and health concerns potentially associated with the business.

"Mayor Sylvester Turner says he’s not trying to be the “moral police” but that this is not the type of business he wants opening in the city.

"Kinky S Dolls says it’s opening a “love dolls brothel” in Houston. It opened a similar venue in Toronto in 2017.
"Elijah Rising, a Houston-based not-for-profit focused on ending sex trafficking, has started an online petition asking the business be kept out of the city. "

The expressed concern about sex trafficking reminds of cases in which people have been prosecuted (in England and Canada) for importing sex dolls that resemble children, under laws against child pornography that are intended to fight trafficking in children.

I'm further reminded of the Mencken quote defining Puritanism as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be having fun. (Apparently what he actually wrote is very slightly different from what I remembered.)  Perhaps this applies in some cases to the definition of repugnance also.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Research ideas for market designers--invitation to participate

Market design is the topic of a recent thread on the new EconSpark: AEA Economics Discussion Forum.    What are some dissertation-worthy topics in market design?

So far (scrolling down from the top) it has suggestions by me, Fuhito Kojima, Shengwu Li, Bobby Pakzad Hurson, Susan Athey, Mike Luca, John Horton, Tommy Andersson, Alexander Teytelboym, and Parag Pathak, some commenting more than once.

The topics range from ideas about theoretical models, to ideas about how to approach internet marketplace companies for data, and how to empirically evaluate market design innovations.

You don't have to be a veteran designer to contribute to this thread:)

Check it out, point out markets you think might be usefully redesigned or begun, and suggest some tentative or speculative ideas of your own, and maybe get some helpful comments on them...