Friday, March 22, 2019

School choice in Denver, 2019 report

Here's the latest report from Denver's unified school choice:
Record High Participation In District’s Round 1 of SchoolChoice
Mar. 21, 2019
DPS marks eighth year of providing equitable, transparent enrollment through unified system
Denver –Thousands of Denver families took an active role in selecting the best-fit school for their student during another successful SchoolChoice enrollment season. Denver Public Schools (DPS) this week sent out over 27,000 emails and text messages notifying families of their students’ school assignments for 2019-20. Round 2 of SchoolChoice opens on April 3.
The goal of SchoolChoice is to level the playing field by giving all DPS students access to a quality education, regardless of their address or socio-economic background. And SchoolChoice is succeeding. This year, SchoolChoice placed 92% of kindergarteners and 95% of sixth-graders in their first-, second- or third-choice school. Ninth-graders were placed in one of their top three choices 94% of the time. For all three grade levels, match rates for first or second choices were also strong: 89% percent for kindergarten; and 93% for sixth and ninth.
In a continuing effort to provide the best service to Denver families, DPS shifted the timing of the Choice window to close in mid-February, allowing the district to release results nearly a month earlier than in 2018. And the district opened a new walk-in enrollment center in the southwest area to better support families. The DPS SchoolChoice process allows families to rank their top school choices on a single online application. The district then runs a computer algorithm designed to maximize the number of students getting their most-preferred option, subject to availability. The system is based on the 2012-Nobel Prize-winning work of Stanford and Harvard professor Dr. Alvin Roth.
DPS is one of the only large districts in the country in which all its schools, whether traditional, innovation or charter, participate in its choice program. Prior to 2011-12, families had to complete different applications for different schools on different timelines. SchoolChoice is primarily for families with students who will be transitioning into a new school next year, including those entering kindergarten, middle school and high school. The process is also open to families who are not necessarily in a transition year but would like the opportunity to choose a new school for their student.
Because virtually every school is an option in this single enrollment process, DPS provides families with the tools they need to adequately research schools and make informed decisions. These tools include the annual Great Schools Enrollment Guides, School Finder online school search tool, the Great Schools Regional Expo series, and individual school tours.
SchoolChoice is not limited to the Round 1 window that closed Feb. 20. Round 2 of SchoolChoice begins April 3 and will provide opportunities for families who did not participate in Round 1, or who participated in Round 1 but want to re-explore their options or who are new to DPS.
SchoolChoice Data
SchoolChoice participation rates by transition grades:
Kindergarten – 89%
Sixth-grade – 84%
Ninth-grade – 76%
TOTAL – 84%
SchoolChoice Match rates:
Grade2019: 1stChoice2018: 1stChoiceChange2019: 1stor 2nd2018: 1stor 2ndChange2019: 1st-3rd2018: 1st-3rdChange

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Dr. Oscar Salvatierra, Jr. (1935 - 2019)

Here's the Stanford obituary of the pioneering kidney transplant surgeon:

Pioneering pediatric kidney transplant surgeon Oscar Salvatierra dies at 83
Oscar Salvatierra founded Stanford’s pediatric kidney transplant program, helped write the national legislation that regulates organ transplants, and conducted research in kidney transplantation.

"Oscar Salvatierra Jr., MD, professor emeritus of surgery and of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a leader in the effort to enact national legislation regulating organ donation, died March 16 at his home in Menlo Park, California.  He was 83.


"A pediatric kidney transplant surgeon, Salvatierra was the physician most involved in the development and passage of the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, the legislation that established a nationwide network to enable the fair and equitable allocation of donor organs to patients across the country.

"The law, on which Salvatierra collaborated with then-Congressman Al Gore, also banned buying and selling donor organs. It has served as a model for laws regulating organ transplantation around the world.
"Salvatierra developed methods that enabled small children to be successfully transplanted with adult-sized kidneys, making it possible for many children to receive kidneys donated by adult donors, including their relatives. He also pioneered an immune-suppression protocol for pediatric kidney transplant recipients that avoided steroid medications, which have harmful side effects in children, such as severe growth suppression."

School choice in Washington D.C., by Thomas Toch in the Washington Post magazine

In the Washington Post magazine, Thomas Toch writes about the accomplishments and limitations of the school choice system in Washington D.C., and school choice more generally. He's a thoughtful observer of the education scene, and the director of FutureEd. (I gather that the piece is only online now and will be in print on Saturday...)

The Lottery That’s Revolutionizing D.C. Schools
by Thomas Toch.  Photos by Evelyn Hockstein, MARCH 20, 2019

The whole thing is worth reading.  Here's the concluding paragraph:

"In forcing traditional public schools to compete more directly, the common enrollment system has pressed them to strengthen themselves, as Henderson suggests. It has made school choice fairer and more efficient. And it has changed the dynamic between Washington’s public and private schools. Families are finding public Montessori programs, dual-language opportunities like Noah’s and other options that were offered mainly in the private sector in the past. But the long wait lists at some schools and empty spots at others that the My School DC lottery has produced make clear that the success of school choice in Washington will ultimately require creating more strong schools. “If we don’t have capacity in A-plus schools for all the kids, then some kids aren’t going to go to A-plus schools,” Roth told me. “No system of choice can fix that.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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

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

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Alan Krueger (1960-2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Matching refugees to host country locations

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

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

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

Improving refugee integration through data-driven algorithmic assignment.


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

Friday, March 15, 2019

NRMP Match Day, 2019

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

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

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

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

Ideas for easing medical students’ Match Day ‘frenzy’

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

Ongoing controversies about same sex marriage

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

From the Washington Post:

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

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

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

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

And from the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Organ donor compensation in New Zealand

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Disrupting black markets

If markets can be facilitated, they can also be obstructed. The NSF announces some grants aimed at this:

NSF invests in research to help disrupt operations of illicit supply networks
9 early concept awards to detect, disrupt, disable networks that traffic people, weapons, drugs and more

"Networks that illegally traffic in everything from people and opioids to human organs and nuclear material pose threats to U.S. health, prosperity and security. Nine new awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will advance the scientific understanding of how such illicit supply networks function -- and how to dismantle them.

"The new awards support research that combines engineering with computer, physical and social sciences to address a danger that poses significant consequences for national and international security. Nimble and technologically sophisticated networks traffic in contraband that includes people, illegal weapons, drugs, looted antiquities, and exotic animal products. Unencumbered by national boundaries, they funnel illicit profits to criminal organizations, and fuel transnational and terrorist organizations.

"Other federal agencies and organizations have worked on this issue for many years, with involvement of specialized fields in the academic community. The new NSF awards leverage fundamental research, taking an engineering systems-based approach made far more powerful by the integration of other scientific disciplines.

"We've been studying commercial supply chains for years and figuring out how to make them resilient -- now we want to use these same principles to make illicit networks less resilient. We want to break them," said Georgia-Ann Klutke, NSF program director for Operations Engineering in the Directorate for Engineering. "These are systems that operate by the same dynamics and use the same infrastructure components as legal commercial distribution systems. Our goal is to provide fundamental insights into the operations and economics of these networks that other federal agencies and organizations can use to attack this very complex problem."
Below are the nine new projects being funded, along with the principal investigators and awardee organizations.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Legal lotteries and illegal numbers games: some history

The NY Times published a nostalgic look back at the widespread illegal gambling on the "numbers" that preceded the introduction of a legal state run lottery, which eventually competed away the illegal game. It's a story of both market design, to produce a trustworthy lottery that could be run by criminals, and a story of how a legal market eventually replaced it (although, as I recall, only slowly...)

The Daily Lottery Was Originally a Harlem Game. Then Albany Wanted In.
The numbers were a sprawling, black-run business for decades.

"In the early 1920s, Casper Holstein, a black man from the Danish West Indies who worked as a porter for a Fifth Avenue store, liked to study the “Clearing House” totals published in a year’s worth of newspapers he’d saved. The Clearing House was an operation that managed the exchanges of money among New York City banks on a daily basis. It occurred to Holstein that the numbers printed were different every day.

"Until then, lottery games existed, but the winning numbers were often chosen in unreliable ways that could produce rigged results. According to the 2010 book “Playing the Numbers,” Holstein came up with an ingenious solution. Using the Clearing House totals to produce a random combination between 000 and 999, he came up with a daily three-digit winning number for a new kind of lottery game. His invention became known simply as the numbers.

It was an immediate hit and quickly created a sprawling underground economy that moved through Harlem and other black communities in the U.S. For 60 years, the numbers reigned supreme as New York City’s pre-eminent daily lottery game — until 1980, when the state decided it wanted in."
And here's a 2013 story, about how the numbers hung on for a while, but its customers got older and older:
Relics of the Bygone (and the Illegal)
The numbers game is dwindling, even in Harlem, once its stronghold, but it’s not obsolete.
"Back then, there were an estimated 100,000 numbers workers and more than 8,000 arrests a year. In neighborhoods like Harlem, the game became an element of black and Latino identity and culture. Black leaders called for black-owned rackets in the 1960s, and there were conflicts with the Mafia.

Several years later, with the state lottery offering a similar game, runners and numbers bankers openly protested in Manhattan. They feared the legal game would wipe out the rackets and their jobs. They were, for the most part, right."

I have an unreliable memory that I can't now confirm online that when I matriculated at Columbia University in 1968, the local weekly Harlem newspaper (probably the Amsterdam News) didn't publish any financial information except for a single number, which I recall not as the clearinghouse numbers described above, but something like the volume of trade on the New York Stock Exchange the previous day.  I remember naively inquiring why this should be the one number reported in a weekly newspaper, and it was explained to me that its last digits were the weekly number.  (I think it was published on the front page, but looking online at old photos of the Amsterdam News front page I don't see it.)  If anyone has a more reliable/correct memory, I'd be glad to hear of it.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cornell celebrates Eva Tardos

In the Cornell Sun:

A Tribute to the Women in Lab Coats, Behind the Microscopes and Computer Screens
By Sophie Reynolds, Catherine Cai, Caroline Chang

"Professor Eva Tardos, Computer Science
Cornell Professor Eva Tardos, computer science, focuses her research on the effects of “selfish users” in networks. A “selfish user” optimizes resource usage for their own benefit like in packet routing, crowdsourcing and bitcoin mining. Selfish optimization by one user can have a negative effect on other users because it could limit access to resources and subsequently slow down processes in their respective areas of a network.
“Understanding the tradeoff between more complicated designs that can mediate effects of selfish users versus a simpler design […] is an area that I have been working on for 20 or so years, and I still find it fascinating,” Tardos said.
Tardos’ research also overlaps heavily with algorithmic game theory. Tardos notes that her research is extremely interdisciplinary and that she actively communicates with Cornell faculty such as Professor David Easley, economics, as well as economics graduate students.
“The graduate course that I last taught, CS 6840: Algorithmic Game Theory, had econ grad students in it and those are the people I often talk to, even after the course.”
Tardos not only collaborates with economists at Cornell, but also with larger scientific communities such as in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Economics and Computation, a forum to exchange ideas and converse over technical papers.
In addition to her research, Tardos teaches CS 4820: Analysis of Algorithms, a core class in Cornell’s computer science curriculum that focuses on the design and analysis of computer science algorithms.
“The best part of teaching undergraduate students is to teach students a principled way of thinking about algorithms,” Tardos said.
Tardos, a strong advocate for women in computing fields and an advisor for Women In Computing At Cornell, acknowledges that the number of women getting involved in computer science has not steadily risen like in many other STEM fields.
According to Tardos, the 1980’s were a high point for women in computing but after the dot com boom and bust, the number of women in computer science started to drop.
“Fortunately, in recent years that trend has reversed, and we are doing much better in attracting women to the field,” Tardos said.
Cornell is already ahead of the curve in achieving a 1:1 ratio of women to men in engineering disciplines, and Tardos remains very optimistic about the prospect of more women in computing fields entering academia.
Tardos hopes that this generation of women does not underestimate the excitement of being a computer scientist at a research university."

Sunday, March 10, 2019

First-person account of a four-way kidney exchange in Houston, in the WSJ

Here's a moving first-person account by journalist Yogita Patel in the Wall Street Journal, about her decision to donate a kidney to her brother, through kidney exchange.

I Gave My Kidney to a Stranger to Save My Brother’s Life
By Yogita Patel, March 9, 2019

It's full of interesting introspection. Here's one bit:
"As I expressed my growing concerns, my brother quietly acknowledged to other family members some of his own doubts. “I wasn’t sure if it would always be something you’d hold over me,” he recently admitted. I wasn’t sure, either."

I was also interested in a technical part of the story about the lengths that Houston Methodist Hospital goes to try to perform all the kidney exchange transplants they do internally, i.e. at their own hospital.  In this case, a four-pair exchange was assembled over a period of months, that included at least one non-directed donor who participated in the exchanges, which all took place on the same day.
"Houston Methodist first aims to create a donor chain without other hospitals—its longest involved 12 people. If appropriate matches fail to come together, the hospital expands the search regionally, then ultimately to a national registry that helped create a 30-pair swap the hospital took part in eight years ago.
"As months went by, our small network continued to come together behind the scenes.
"Twice, Pesh got word from his coordinator that it was nearly go time in what turned out to be false alarms.As the wait dragged on, he made two trips to the ICU because of complications tied to dialysis. Each episode left him fearing that the prospect of a donation was fading.

"Finally in June, we got word that they had found matches for both of us. Our four-pair exchange took place on the same day, Aug. 7, with everyone having surgery at Houston Methodist."

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Deceased donation of organs for transplant: recent policy discussions

Here's a list of links about recent discussions about how deceased donor organs are recovered and used in the U.S.

First, a 2017 article in the American Journal of Transplantation on how OPO's (Organ Procurement Organizations) are measured:

Changing Metrics of Organ Procurement Organization Performance in Order to Increase Organ Donation Rates in the United States
D. Goldberg  M. J. Kallan  L. Fu  M. Ciccarone  J. Ramirez  P. Rosenberg  J. Arnold G. Segal  K. P. Moritsugu  H. Nathan  R. Hasz  P. L. Abt

Abstract: The shortage of deceased‐donor organs is compounded by donation metrics that fail to account for the total pool of possible donors, leading to ambiguous donor statistics. We sought to assess potential metrics of organ procurement organizations (OPOs) utilizing data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) from 2009–2012 and State Inpatient Databases (SIDs) from 2008–2014. A possible donor was defined as a ventilated inpatient death ≤75 years of age, without multi‐organ system failure, sepsis, or cancer, whose cause of death was consistent with organ donation. These estimates were compared to patient‐level data from chart review from two large OPOs. Among 2,907,658 inpatient deaths from 2009–2012, 96,028 (3.3%) were a “possible deceased‐organ donor.” The two proposed metrics of OPO performance were: (1) donation percentage (percentage of possible deceased‐donors who become actual donors; range: 20.0–57.0%); and (2) organs transplanted per possible donor (range: 0.52–1.74). These metrics allow for comparisons of OPO performance and geographic‐level donation rates, and identify areas in greatest need of interventions to improve donation rates. We demonstrate that administrative data can be used to identify possible deceased donors in the US and could be a data source for CMS to implement new OPO performance metrics in a standardized fashion.

Here's an optimistic report from the Bridgespan Group, sponsored by the Arnold Foundation:
Reforming Organ Donation in AmericaSaving 25,000 Lives per Year and $13 Billion in Taxpayer Funds over Five Years

"There ispotential to recover up to 28,000 more organs from deceased donors per year, saving thousands of lives and billions in taxpayer funds from the avoided costs of dialysis and increased productivity.The gap between the number of transplants performed and this potential persists in great part due to a system of misaligned policy incentives—key players have competing agendas that are not aligned to maximize the number of organs transplanted. Transplant centers, while dedicated to patient care, adjust their level of risk aversion based on overly strict acceptance criteria and at times decline to use lifesaving organs. Organ procurement organizations (OPOs), which lead procurement of organs from deceased donors, must comply with an evaluation system that does not actually reward pursuing every organ, every time. Donor hospitals lack incentive to do more than the bare minimum of referring potential deaths to OPOs. ..."

Here's a pessimistic report from the Washington Post:

Despite low performance, organ collection group gets new federal contract

"Federal regulators in June took the unusual step of announcing they would shut down a New York-based nonprofit organization responsible for recovering human organs for transplantation. On Friday, regulators reversed that decision even though the organization, LiveOnNY, has received poor performance scores for nearly a decade and its organ recovery rates remain among the lowest in the nation."


"27,455 Total potential donors
Using the latest data and methodology, The Post identified a large pool of ideal donors: People who were already on ventilators when they died and were either declared brain dead or whose organs could be recovered after their hearts stopped beating.
"9,971 Actual organ donors
The U.S. transplant system recovered organs from less than half of potential donors in 2016."

Friday, March 8, 2019

Why is it hard for securities exchanges to restore price competition (instead of speed competition)?

Many stock exchanges earn rents by giving privileged access to high speed algorithmic traders.  Why doesn't a new exchange enter the market with a design that would privilege price competition over speed competition?  Budish, Lee and Shim have some thoughts on that:

Will the Market Fix the Market?A Theory of Stock Exchange Competition and Innovation
 Eric Budish, Robin S. Lee and John J. Shim
February 27, 2019

Abstract As of early 2019, there are 13 stock exchanges in the U.S., across which over 1 trillion shares ($50 trillion) are traded annually. All 13 exchanges use the continuous limit order book market design, a design that gives rise to latency arbitrage—arbitrage rents from symmetrically observed public information—and the associated high-frequency trading arms race (Budish, Cramton and Shim, 2015). Will the market adopt new market designs that address the negative aspects of high-frequency trading? This paper builds a theoretical model of stock exchange competition to answer this question. Our model, shaped by institutional details of the U.S. equities market, shows that under the status quo market design: (i) trading behavior across the many distinct exchanges is as if there is just a single “synthesized” exchange; (ii) competition among exchanges is fierce on the dimension of traditional trading fees; but (iii) exchanges capture and maintain significant economic rents from the sale of speed technology—arms for the arms race. Using a variety of data, we document seven stylized empirical facts that align with these predictions. We then use the model to examine the private and social incentives for market design innovation. We show that the market design adoption game among exchanges is a repeated prisoner’s dilemma. If an exchange adopts a new market design that eliminates latency arbitrage, it would win share and earn economic rents; perhaps surprisingly, the usual coordination problems associated with getting a new market design off the ground are not central. However, imitation by other exchanges would result in an equilibrium that resembles the status quo with competitive trading fees, but now without the rents from the speed race. We conclude that although the social returns to adoption are large, the private returns are much smaller for an entrant exchange and negative for an incumbent that currently derives rents from the inefficiencies that the new design eliminates. Nevertheless, our analysis does not imply that a market-wide market design mandate is necessary. Rather, it points to a more circumscribed policy response that would tip the balance of incentives and encourage the “market to fix the market.” 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Prosecuting customers in the fight against sex trafficking of illegal immigrants in American massage parlors

Recent headlines from an investigation into sex trafficking have included the arrests of high profile customers, which may do more to limit the market than targeting massage parlor brothels and those who work in them and operate them.

Here's a NY Times headline that has garnered more attention than most prostitution investigations:

Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Charged in Florida Prostitution Investigation
"Robert K. Kraft, the billionaire owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, was charged on Friday with two counts of soliciting sex as part of a wide-ranging investigation into prostitution and suspected human trafficking in South Florida.

"The charges against Mr. Kraft, 77, in Jupiter, Fla., came after the police used video surveillance to observe activity inside several day spas and massage parlors. The police said that the parlors had been used for prostitution and that many of the women involved were considered to be victims."
And here's a followup story that describes the working conditions, which are themselves violations of American labor laws. But the sex workers are in no position to seek help from the law, since they are vulnerable twice over, first as illegal immigrants (who have typically entered on a short term visa and overstayed) and second as illegal sex workers (although they can be counted as crime victims rather than as criminals in some investigations of trafficking).

Behind Illicit Massage Parlors Lie a Vast Crime Network and Modern Indentured Servitude

"The frequently middle-aged women who work in parlors with names like Orchids of Asia and Rainbow Spa are often struggling to pay off high debts to family members, loan sharks, labor traffickers and lawyers who help them file phony asylum claims. In some cases, their passports are taken and their illegal immigration status keeps them further in the shadows, with some of them rotated every 10 days to two weeks between spas operated by the same owners. Forced to pay for their own supplies and even their own condoms, many women must sleep on the same massage tables where they service customers and cook on hot plates in cramped kitchens or on back steps.
"Law enforcement officials said there were an estimated 9,000 illicit massage parlors across the country, from Orlando to Los Angeles.
"The women are paid just a sliver of the $60 or more the client pays for an hourlong massage. Their real money — and chance at a better life — comes in the form of tips, which they are encouraged or forced to amplify through illegal means.
"The ubiquity of the massage parlors offers an accessibility and sheen of normalcy not offered by traditional brothels. And as the massage parlors have expanded even into small-town America in recent years, meticulously detailed review sites like Rubmaps have served as the Yelp and Foursquare of the illicit parlor business, with graphic anatomical descriptions of the women and explicit breakdowns of the sexual services proffered.
"A federal law enforcement official...said that the most common method for smuggling women from Asian countries was either a fraudulent tourist visa or a fraudulent work visa, such as for nursing work.
"One reason the Asian massage parlors remain so poorly understood is the extreme reluctance of the women to speak with the police and even with their own lawyers.
"Some fear retaliation by traffickers to their families in China, and some feel morally indebted to those who helped find them a job, said Chris Muller, the director of training and external affairs at Restore NYC, an anti-sex-trafficking organization.
"Bradley Myles, chief executive of Polaris Project, a nonprofit that works to combat human trafficking, said that the madams arrested on big raids like the recent ones in Florida — known as “mamasans” — are often women in their 60s and 70s who have spent decades in the sex trade but are usually pretty far down in the organization."

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Working alone: sex work in Britain

In Britain, prostitutes often feel compelled to work alone because working together puts them at risk of arrest for brothel-keeping.  But working alone is dangerous.  The Guardian has the story:

Decriminalise sex work to protect us from crime, prostitutes say
English collective says laws forcing women to work alone expose them to violence

"Prostitution should be decriminalised in the UK to make it safer for vulnerable women, a sex worker organisation has said.
The English Collective of Prostitutes is calling for the removal of laws relating to consensual adult sexual behaviour, arguing that the legislation forces sex workers to operate alone, leaving them vulnerable to crime and reluctant to report violence to the police because they fear arrest.
"The announcement comes ahead of International Sex Workers’ Rights Day, an annual event on 3 March. The government is about to publish research it commissioned on sex workers in coming months.
"In 2016, the home affairs select committee recommended decriminalising prostitution. The interim report on prostitution said the Home Office should immediately change the legislation so that soliciting was no longer an offence, and change brothel-keeping laws to allow sex workers to share premises without losing the ability to prosecute those who used brothels to control or exploit sex workers."