Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The fall and rise of food supplies in Covid-19 India, by Matt Lowe and Ben Roth

Pandemic lock downs gave food supply a shock in Indian markets, but they have recovered.

COVID Lockdown: How India's Food Supply Chain First Tightened and then Recovered
"Food supply shortages, if any, are driven by state level policy making, rather than consumers’ and suppliers’ fears of contracting COVID-19."
by Matt Lowe and Ben Roth

"In mid-April, the supply of fruits and vegetables at Azadpur, Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable market, had fallen about 50% since the start of India’s nationwide lockdown.
Two months later, updated nationwide data shows that India’s food supply chain appears to have recovered, operating at levels comparable to the same time last year. The story of the recovery is best told with four food facts, the sum of which tell its own tale of governance during the COVID-19 pandemic times.
Food fact 1: Food volumes took a huge hit post-lockdown but have steadily recovered.
Food fact 2: Food prices increased post-lockdown but have steadily fallen.
Food Fact 3: The early disruption to the food supply chain was highly correlated with the incidence of COVID-19 at the state level, but all states appear to be recovering.
Food Fact 4: Within states, there was no relationship between the incidence of COVID-19 and the health of the food supply chain, even in phase 1.

Earlier post: 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Monday, June 29, 2020

New seminar series on Marketplace Algorithms and Design.

Yash Kanoria writes to alert me to their new seminar series:

Gagan Goel, Daniela Saban, and Yash Kanoria (with help from Judy Gan) are organizing a seminar on Marketplace Algorithms and Design.

We will start with an "Ask me anything" session with Preston McAfee on Tuesday June 30th, 11am-12pm PT. Thereafter, on Thursdays, 11am - 12pm PT we have:
· July 9: Navdeep Sahni, "Search Advertising and Information Discovery: Are Consumers Averse to Sponsored Messages?"
· July 23: Ramesh Johari, "Experimental Design in Two-Sided Platforms: An Analysis of Bias"
· July 30: Sera Linardi, "Worker-Firm Relational Contracts at the Time of Shutdowns: Experimental Evidence"
Zoom info: https://zoom.us/j/97125802655  password: please request it by filling this form
Simultaneous Youtube live stream channel
Time: 11 am to noon Pacific Time

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Course allocation with minimum quotas, by Bichler, Hammerl, Waldherr, and Morrill

Here's a course allocation problem:, "Our specific task was to assign students to classes in the computer science and information systems department at the Technical University of Munich, a large European university. This department is currently the largest department at the university with more than 6,000 students."

How to Assign Scarce Resources Without Money:  Designing Information Systems that are Efficient, Truthful, and (Pretty) Fair
Martin Bichler, Alexander Hammerl, Stefan Waldherr,  Thayer Morrill

"Matching with preferences has great potential to coordinate the efficient allocation of scarce resources in organizations when monetary transfers are not available, and thus can provide a powerful design principle for information systems. Unfortunately, it is well-known that it is impossible to combine all three properties of truthfulness, efficiency, and fairness (i.e. envy-freeness) in matching with preferences. Established mechanisms are either efficient or envy-free, and the efficiency loss in envy-free mechanisms is substantial. We focus on a widespread representative of a matching problem: course assignment where students have preferences for courses and organizers have priorities over students. An important feature in course assignment is that a course has both a maximum capacity and a minimum required quota. This is also a requirement in many other matching applications such as school choice, hospital-residents matching, or the assignment of workers to jobs. We introduce RESPCT, a mechanism that respects minimum quotas and is truthful, efficient, and has
low levels of envy. The reduction in envy is significant and is due to two remarkably effective heuristics. We follow a design science approach and provide analytical and experimental results based on field data from a large-scale course assignment application. These results have led to a policy change and the proposed assignment system is now being used to match hundreds of students every semester."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Strategy proofness in auctions, beyond the frontiers of our most reliable knowledge

A lot of market design goes on beyond the frontiers for which we have robust general theorems. Computational methods are important in these cases (and sometimes the theory follows along eventually).   Here's a recent auction paper on archiv.org that sheds some light on strategy proofness.

Certifying Strategyproof Auction Networks
Michael J. Curry∗ Ping-Yeh Chiang∗ Tom Goldstein and  John P. Dickerson
Abstract: Optimal auctions maximize a seller’s expected revenue subject to individual rationality and strategyproofness for the buyers. Myerson’s seminal work in 1981 settled the case of auctioning a single item; however, subsequent decades of work have yielded little progress moving beyond a single item, leaving the design of revenue-maximizing auctions as a central open problem in the field of mechanism design. A recent thread of work in “differentiable economics” has used tools from modern deep learning to instead learn good mechanisms. We focus on the RegretNet architecture, which can represent auctions with arbitrary numbers of items and participants; it is trained to be empirically strategyproof, but the property is never exactly verified leaving potential loopholes for market participants to exploit. We propose ways to explicitly verify strategyproofness under a particular valuation profile using techniques from the neural network verification literature. Doing so requires making several modifications to the RegretNet architecture in order to represent it exactly in an integer program. We train our network and produce certificates in several settings, including settings for which the optimal strategyproof mechanism is not known

Friday, June 26, 2020

Pandemic policies work differently in different places

Here's a recent largely empirical paper by many authors, looking at the actual and counterfactual impact of different pandemic responses in different cities, with the aim (among others) of mapping the employment/mortality frontier of different policies.  They build on GPS and payment data for modeling movement and interpersonal contact, and electronic health records for hospitalization and deaths.  Thus, for example, they find that in Chicago, different policies can make big moves along the employment/mortality frontier (allowing only essential workers to go to work reduces deaths and increases unemployment, both by a lot), while in a more sparsely inhabited city like Sacramento, it's hard to change the mortality rate (but only allowing essential workers still causes lots of unemployment).

Socioeconomic Network Heterogeneity and Pandemic Policy Response
Mohammad Akbarpour, Cody Cook, Aude Marzuoli, Simon Mongey, Abhishek Nagaraj, Matteo Saccarola, Pietro Tebaldi, Shoshana Vasserman, Hanbin Yang
NBER Working Paper No. 27374
Issued in June 2020

Abstract: "We develop a heterogeneous-agents network-based model to analyze alternative policies during a pandemic outbreak, accounting for health and economic trade-offs within the same empirical  framework. We leverage a variety of data sources, including data on individuals' mobility and encounters across metropolitan areas, health records, and measures of the possibility to be productively working from home. This combination of data sources allows us to build a framework in which the severity of a disease outbreak varies across locations and industries, and across individuals who differ by age, occupation, and preexisting health conditions.

"We use this framework to analyze the impact of different social distancing policies in the context of the COVID-19 outbreaks across US metropolitan areas. Our results highlight how outcomes vary across areas in relation to the underlying heterogeneity in population density, social network structures, population health, and employment characteristics. We find that policies by which individuals who can work from home continue to do so, or in which schools and firms alternate schedules across different groups of students and employees, can be effective in limiting the health and healthcare costs of the pandemic outbreak while also reducing employment losses."

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Market designers and ventilator allocation, by Pathak, Sönmez, and Ünver

I recall when a big part of practical market design was explaining to skeptical listeners why they should listen to economists...

June 19, 2020
Improving Ventilator Rationing Through Collaboration With Experts on Resource Allocation
Parag A. Pathak, PhD1; Tayfun Sönmez, PhD2; M. Utku Ünver, PhD2
JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(6):e2012838. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.12838

"In our study of ventilator rationing guidelines,2 we have not seen task forces include input from experts on market design, a field of economics that studies the allocation of scarce resources. In many settings, price plays a central role in allocation when demand exceeds supply; however, this instrument is often not available in public health emergencies with extreme scarcity. During the last 2 decades, substantial research activity and policy developments have taken place regarding allocation environments where price-based tools are either unavailable or considered repugnant. Two noteworthy examples are the organization of kidney exchanges in the US and the assignment of seats at public schools. Because research in market design incorporates ethical considerations and operationalizes these objectives with an allocation mechanism, scholars in this field can be valuable for transforming various trade-offs between ethical principles into specific allocation procedures."

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Curbside interviewing / hiring joins curbside pickup in a social-distancing economy

The WSJ has the story:

Job Recruitment Adopts Social Distancing as Coronavirus Alters Practices
Employers rethink how they hire, trying remote onboarding and curbside job fairs to reduce risks
By James T. Areddy, June 22, 2020

"During the parking-lot screening, the couple and other job seekers sat in their cars and provided recruiters, wearing face masks, with basic information for possible callbacks on a range of jobs in light industry and those requiring skilled labor.

"It is an example of how social distancing, needed to stem the coronavirus pandemic, is altering job recruitment."

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I join the NRMP board of directors

In the 1990's I worked closely with the NRMP on the resident match, and since then I've been following it from a distance.  Now I'll join their Board.  I imagine that during my term there may be an opportunity to look at how the overall system of applications, interviews and matching have co-evolved and adapted to each other.

Here's the NRMP press release:

 NRMP Board Of Directors Welcomes Outstanding Cohort Of New Members
Nobel Prize Recipient Dr. Alvin E. Roth Among Talented Slate of Elected Individuals
Washington, D.C., June 22, 2020 –

At its June meeting, the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) Board of Directors elected five individuals for terms that begin July 1, 2020. The NRMP’s 19-member Board includes medical school deans, institutional officials, clinical program directors, resident/fellow physicians, medical students, and one public member. The appointment of Dr. Alvin E. Roth, the 2012 co-recipient of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, highlights the quality of the slate of new members.

“The individuals recently elected to the NRMP Board of Directors will bring an impressive mix of professional experiences and fresh perspectives to the governance of the organization,” said NRMP Board Chair Dr. Steven J. Scheinman. “They were selected from a deep pool of accomplished applicants, and we look forward to working with them on an array of initiatives.”

The term for directors is four years, with a maximum of two terms. The term for resident/fellow and student directors is two years. Listed alphabetically, the new members include:

Ricardo J. Boccardo Bello, M.D., General Surgery resident at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. A graduate of the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, he earned a Master of Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and completed his PGY-1 General Surgery residency and postdoctoral research fellowship in Microsurgery Outcomes at Johns Hopkins University. While at Johns Hopkins, he received the Core Surgery Clerkship Outstanding Junior Resident Teaching Award.

Sydney Miller, Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine student. Elected President of her class, Ms. Miller serves alongside faculty leaders as a member of the Dean’s Executive Board, which deliberates the college’s undergraduate and graduate medical education programs and other strategic initiatives. She earned her undergraduate degree in Human Biology at Michigan State University. Her interests include increasing awareness and appreciation of osteopathic medicine.

Alvin E. Roth, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and a Professor, by courtesy, for the school of Management Science and Engineering. He is also the George Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard University. Dr. Roth’s academic expertise is in game theory, experimental economics, and market design, and he was co-recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics for work which focused in part on the NRMP’s matching algorithm. He earned a doctoral degree in Operations Research from Stanford University.

Morgan Swanson, M.D./Ph.D. student at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and College of Public Health. She has served with the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Organization of Student Representatives (OSR), most recently as one of 12 students selected to its Administrative Board. Ms. Swanson graduated from Iowa State University and serves as a member of the Editorial Board of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Christopher B. Traner, M.D., recent graduate of Neurology residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital and incoming Epilepsy/Neurophysiology fellow at Yale. He received the Yale Neurology Department’s Lewis Levy Award, presented to the PGY-2 resident who best exemplifies clinical excellence. He advised undergraduates as a Kaplan MCAT Advantage Plus Mentor while attending the University of Toledo College of Medicine. As a resident at Yale, Dr. Traner was a member of his program’s Interview Committee.

The newly elected Board members replace those whose terms conclude on June 30: Dr. Zaid Almarzooq, Cardiology fellow, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Dr. Jessica Fried, chief resident, Diagnostic Radiology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Eriny Hanna, 2020 graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine transitioning to an Emergency Medicine residency at Vanderbilt; Father Daniel Morrissey, O.P.; and Dr. Thomas Wickham, 2020 graduate of the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine transitioning to a Family Medicine residency at UMass Memorial Medical Center.

About NRMP
The National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) is a private, non-profit organization established in 1952 at the request of medical students to provide an orderly and fair mechanism for matching the preferences of applicants for U.S. residency positions with the preferences of residency program directors. In addition to the annual Main Residency Match® for almost 44,000 registrants, the NRMP conducts Fellowship Matches for more than 60 subspecialties through its Specialties Matching Service® (SMS®).

Monday, June 22, 2020

Raj Chetty nowcasts Covid-19

Here is Raj Chetty on what the covid-19 market shock looks like pretty much as it is happening... his talk starts at 13.20, after an introduction by Markus Brunnermeier.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Who are U.S. essential workers in the coronavirus lockdowns? McCormack, Avery, Spitzer and Chandra in JAMA

Here's a paper in JAMA that focuses on households with essential workers, many of whom are low income.   40% of adult workers are classified as essential workers, and a quarter of them earn less than $40,000.

McCormack G, Avery C, Spitzer AK, Chandra A. Economic Vulnerability of Households With Essential Workers. JAMA. Published online June 18, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.11366

"We analyzed data from the Public Use Microdata Sample of the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS). The US Census Bureau chooses a random sample of US addresses each month, contacts selected households by mail, and follows up by phone and personal visit to address nonresponse.3 The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” advisory list of occupations necessary to “continuity of functions critical to public health and safety” in March 2020 and updated that list in April 2020.4 We matched industry and subindustry codes in the ACS to the 6-digit Standard Occupation Codes (indexed by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics) in the CISA advisory list to identify essential workers.5 We assessed the proportion and demographic characteristics (age, sex, race as given in response to a multiple-choice question) of essential workers by industry."

"Eight of the 21 industry categories from the ACS accounted for 73% of essential workers. Health care accounted for a larger proportion (15%) of essential workers than any other industry: 65% of health care workers held essential jobs. Black individuals were overrepresented in several essential industries, notably transportation (23%), public administration (18%), and health care (18%).

"A total of 1 410 976 households were represented in the 2018 ACS with an estimated 51% of those households including an essential worker. Table 2 summarizes household characteristics of essential workers: 25% of essential workers were estimated to have low household income, 18% to live in a household with at least 1 uninsured person, and 18% to live with someone 65 years or older. We estimated that 48% of essential workers lived in a household with at least 1 risk and 13% of essential workers lived in high-risk households."

Saturday, June 20, 2020


There's a nice article about supermarkets in the Atlantic, and how they are organized and supplied,  motivated by nostalgia for one NYC chain, Fairway, that is now going through bankruptcy.

The Pandemic Shows Us the Genius of Supermarkets
A short history of the stores that—even now—keep us supplied with an abundance of choices
by Bianca Bosker

"Most stores open with a colorful bounty of flowers and produce (a breath of freshness to whet our appetites), followed by the flyover expanse of the center store (cans, jars, boxes, bags), followed, in the way back, by milk, eggs, and other staples (pushed to Siberia so you’ll travel through as much of the store as possible, and be tempted along the way). Store designers can choose from a variety of floor plans—forced-path, free-flow, island, wagon-wheel—but by far the most popular is the combination grid/racetrack, with nonperishable items in rectilinear aisles, and the deli, cheese, meat, seafood, and produce departments circling them on the exhilaratingly named racetrack, so called because we scoot faster on the store’s perimeter.

Here's an earlier story on how and why established retail chains (low debt, own their own real estate) attract the interest of private equity firms:

How Private Equity Ruined a Beloved Grocery Chain
An investment firm was supposed to help Fairway survive. So why is the company now filing for bankruptcy?
by Eileen Appelbaum and Andrew W. Park

Friday, June 19, 2020

The UpFront market for television ads: is it time to change its timing?

The coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity for advertisers and television networks to renegotiate an odd feature of their market for advertisements.  As I understand it, advertisers wishing to purchase blocks of advertising for Fall television series have to do so early, in the Spring, in what is called the upfront market.  This runs so early that some of the shows are still in the early planning stage, so that advertisers have some descriptions of plot lines and target demographics, but they are buying ads in shows that no one has seen yet.

The WSJ has the story:

Big Advertisers Call for a Seasonal Time-Shift in TV’s Upfront Marketplace
Procter & Gamble, Bank of America and others want to move upfront negotiations for ads in the multibillion TV market to the fall from the spring.  By Sahil Patel

"Big-brand advertisers and an industry trade group are calling on the television networks to delay their annual upfront ad marketplace to later in the year—a big shift in the way TV programmers and advertisers have done business for decades.

"The push is driven in part by the havoc the coronavirus has caused in the television business, from the shutdown of production to the big question mark over when sports will return. Both are critical to advertisers: they say there is a lack of visibility into what they would be buying. Ad budgets also are in flux as many advertisers have pared spending during the recent downturn. Many are struggling to figure out what next year’s budgets will look like.
"The TV industry has operated on a broadcasting and advertising calendar that starts in September since 1962, when ABC decided to debut all its programs after Labor Day. Normally, TV networks pitch their new programming at glitzy New York City events in the spring and negotiate ad deals for the fall season soon after.

This year, however, the live upfront events were canceled due to the virus, and executives now expect deal-making will drag out through the year.
"The trade group said there is still value in negotiating ad deals upfront—they would just prefer to shift the timeframe. Upfront deals are beneficial to advertisers as they are able to get lower prices, especially with a limited supply of inventory, and maintain protections like make-goods—which aren’t available to advertisers buying in the “scatter” market, when ads are purchased closer to the time they air."

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Nicola Lacetera, on The Ethics and Economics of Paying Plasma Donors

Nicola Lacetera is among the leaders in studying public views about compensating donors of various sorts. Here he discusses the plasma supply, which is particularly timely given the growing availability of convalescent plasma for Covid-19. (30 minutes)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Peter Jaworski on The Case for Voluntary Remunerated Plasma Collections

Peter Jaworski makes the case for allowing compensation of plasma donors in the wealthy nations of the British Commonwealth:

Bloody Well Pay Them: The Case for Voluntary Remunerated Plasma Collections

Here's the executive summary ( a long summary of a long paper):

"•Blood plasma is used in a wide, and growing, range of life-saving therapies. It is now being trialled to treat Covid-19, including by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.
• There are significant global shortages of blood plasma. Demand is growing at a rate of 6-10% per year. Three-quarters of people do not have access to the appropriate plasma therapy, largely outside of developed countries.
• Shortages are significantly exacerbated by the World Health Organisation’s policy — adopted by the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and some Canadian provinces — to rely exclusively on Voluntary Non-Remunerated Blood Donations (VNRBD).
• The United Kingdom imports 100% of its supply of blood plasma, Canada (84%), Australia (52%), and New Zealand (13%). They are increasingly dependent on imports for blood plasma from countries that remunerate donors. This inflates the global blood plasma price, making it unaffordable for low to middle income countries.
• The United States, which allows remuneration of donors, is responsible for 70% of the global supply of plasma. Together with other countries that permit a form of payment for plasma donations — including Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Czechia —they account for nearly 90% of the total supply. The dependence on a small number of countries is a serious health security threat.
• Non-remunerated donations are estimated to be 2-4 times more expensive than remunerated collections, because of the expense of recruiting and retaining donors, including through marketing. Australia, for example, could save $200 million annually by importing all blood plasma.
• There are significant global shortages of plasma therapies. The growing global demand cannot be met without remuneration.
• The evidence is clear that remunerating individuals for blood plasma donations is safe, would ensure a secure supply of plasma, does not discourage non-remunerated blood donations, and would provide significant patient benefits, including peace of mind.
• In order to ensure a safe, secure, and sufficient supply of plasma therapies, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand should adopt Voluntary Remunerated Plasma Collections (VRPC):
• VRPC means individuals are paid, in cash or in-kind, to give plasma of their own free will. It also means collections using modern deferral and testing techniques, such as deferring higher-risk donors and advanced viral detection tests.
• VRPC would allow the Canzuk countries to at the very least become self-sufficient, and potentially contribute to the humanitarian goal of increasing the global supply of blood plasma for low to middle income countries."

Here's a description of the historical setting:

"On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued “The Melbourne Declaration on 100% Voluntary Non-Remunerated Donation of Blood and Blood Components.”  The Declaration was a re-commitment to, what they call, “Voluntary Non-Remunerated Blood Donations” or VNRBD,” as well as to World Blood Donor Day, celebrated every June 14th.  The Declaration set a target date for achieving 100% VNRBD in safe, secure, and sufficient blood and blood products, including plasma-derived medicinal products. That target date was 2020.
"This year will end without a sufficient supply of plasma based on 100% non-remunerated plasma collections, neither will 2030. With each passing year from 2009 to the present, the world has moved further from that target, and closer to being nearly entirely dependent on the United States."


Before publishing the paper, Jaworski solicited some supportive quotes to use as blurbs.  Here's mine:

Nobel Prize winning economist Alvin Roth says of the current over-reliance on the US’ paid donor market:
I find confusing the position of some countries that compensating domestic plasma donors is immoral, but filling the resulting shortage by purchasing plasma from the U.S. is ok.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Vic Fuchs considers healthcare organization going forward, in JAMA

Vic Fuchs has a lot of insight into American healthcare. Here are his proposals for after the pandemic (or perhaps for a new administration in Washington). It is worth reading it all (I'm just excerpting some lines...)

Health Care Policy After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Victor R. Fuchs, JAMA.  June 12, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.10777

"This is a time to think more boldly about the future of the US health care system. The health care system is dysfunctional for many individuals in the US; it is too costly, too unequal, and too uncertain in its eligibility and coverage, with an increasing number of uninsured. ... In exploring the challenges and difficulties ahead, it is useful to distinguish between those that are primarily technical issues (although these are not exempt from politics) and those that are political obstacles to significant reform

...[Technical issues:]

"how to raise the nearly $4 trillion each year to pay for US health care; and how to organize and deliver the care and compensate those who provide it. The experience of other high-income countries indicates that the most efficient and equitable method to finance universal coverage is through a flat tax on consumption, such as a value-added tax, collected from businesses but passed on to consumers via higher prices.1 An alternative is a retail sales tax, which is more cumbersome and costly to collect than a value-added tax, but makes the connection between the tax and health insurance more apparent to the public.

"Those who object to a flat tax (the same rate for everyone) because they think it is not progressive are mistaken. High-income individuals pay more because they consume more, but everyone gets similar health insurance regardless of income. The combination of the tax and the insurance is quite progressive. If it were not, left of center governments in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development would not eagerly embrace a value-added tax. In contrast, employment-based insurance sets essentially the same price for any given policy regardless of income. High-income individuals only pay more if they choose a more expensive policy, but that does not help pay for care for low-income or unemployed individuals.

...[Political issues:]

"Distrust of the government is difficult to dispel, but it is possible to do so as President Roosevelt proved with his New Deal reforms in the 1930s. Even though it has seemed that major reform of health care would only occur in the wake of a major war, a depression, or large-scale civil unrest that changed the political balance, it now appears that the COVID-19 pandemic may provide the dynamic for major political change.8 If that occurs, major health care reform will be more attainable."

Monday, June 15, 2020

Paul Milgrom corrects the record on spectrum auctions and market design

Paul Milgrom responds in detail to some scurrilous online criticisms and innuendos about market designers in general and spectrum auctions in particular.

 The Market Design Community and the Broadcast Incentive Auction: 
Fact-Checking Glen Weyl’s and Stefano Feltri’s False Claims
By Paul Milgrom*  June 3, 2020 (and republished on Digitopoly on June 14)

"In a recent Twitter rant and a pair of subsequent articles in Promarket, Glen Weyl [1] and Stefano
Feltri [2] invent a conspiratorial narrative according to which the academic market design community is secretive and corrupt, my own actions benefitted my former business associates and the hedge funds they advised in the 2017 broadcast incentive auction, and the result was that far too little TV spectrum was reassigned for broadband at far too little value for taxpayers.
The facts bear out none of these allegations. In fact, there were:

• No secrets: all of Auctionomics’ communications are on the public record,
• No benefits for hedge funds: the funds vigorously opposed Auctionomics’ proposals, which reduced their auction profits,
• No spectrum shortfalls: the number of TV channels reassigned was unaffected by the hedge funds’ bidding, and
• No taxpayer losses: the money value created for the public by the broadband spectrum auction was more than one hundred times larger than the alleged revenue shortfall.
[read the rest to get the facts...]

[1] “It Is Such a Small World: The Market-Design Academic Community Evolved in a Business Network.” Stefano Feltri, Promarket, May 28, 2020.
[2] “How Market Design Economists Helped to Engineer a Mass Privatization of Public Resources.” Glen Weyl, Promarket, May 28, 2020.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Economics and Computation 2020: virtual, early and often (from June 15 to July 22)

The EC conference will be virtual this year, and the organizers have given that some thought.  Here's an announcement (via Jason Hartline, Nicole Immorlica and Scott Kominers) of events spread out over several weeks and  time zones. A lot of market design is included (as well as incorporated:)

Economics and Computation 2020
EC 2020 will be held virtually with events from June 15 to July 22 (details of virtual format).  Participation by members of related fields is strongly encouraged.  

Since 1999 the ACM Special Interest Group on Economics and Computation (SIGecom) has sponsored the leading scientific conference on advances in theory, empirics, and applications at the interface of economics and computation. The 21st ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (Virtual EC 2020) will feature invited speakers, a highlight of papers from other conferences and journals, a technical program of submitted paper presentations and posters, workshops, and tutorials.  

Registration is mandatory (register here) but complimentary with SIGecom membership of $10 ($5 for students).  Details on joining EC events will be emailed to registered participants.

An overview of the schedule:

July 13: Tutorial Watch Parties, Business Meeting, and Poster Session
July 14 - 16: EC Conference (Paper Watch Parties, Paper Poster Sessions, and Plenaries).
July 17 - 22: Workshops.

Areas of interest include, but are not limited to:
Design of economic mechanisms: algorithmic mechanism design; market design; matching; auctions; revenue maximization; pricing; fair division; computational social choice; privacy and ethics.
Game theory: equilibrium computation; price of anarchy; learning in games.
Information elicitation and generation: prediction markets; recommender, reputation and trust systems; social learning; data markets.
Behavioral models: behavioral game theory and bounded rationality; decision theory; computational social science; agent-based modeling.
Online systems: online advertising; electronic commerce; economics of cloud computing; social networks; crowdsourcing; ridesharing and transportation; labor markets; cryptocurrencies; industrial organization.

Methodological developments: machine learning; econometrics; data mining.

They have some very interesting ideas about organizing what are called "watch parties" in the program, but those are in flux, and they didn't give me permission to describe their current thoughts.

Update (embargo lifted): Jason Hartline sends these links to explain:
Philosophy: http://ec20.sigecom.org/participation/covid/

Earlier, Nicole Immorlica had explained this way:

"In the first hour of the watch party, we will have 3-5 parallel sessions of one hour each. In each of these, we will play three 20 min pre-recorded talks with the authors present to answer questions during the talk via chat. "In the second hour, all papers from all parallel sessions will enter a virtual poster room. Participants each control an avatar and will "walk around" the virtual room. When they get close to a poster, they can view it. When they get close to the poster presenter or another participant, that person's video enters their view and they can talk. There will also be a video steam of one minute lightening talks for the posters in one corner of the virtual room in case you want a quick recap of a talk you missed. "We're also trying to innovate around coffee breaks, having hosted conversations with a limited number of participants on a first come, first serve basis, and other activities (these are not fully formed ideas yet)." 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Kidney exchanges and Shapley values

Here's a paper aimed at thinking about kidney exchange cooperation among European national kidney exchange programs. The Shapley value here is applied to countries (not to patient-donor pairs as in some U.S. proposals), and the aim is to measure fairness of allocations with reference to Shapley values.

Peter Biro, Xenia Klimentova Joao Pedro Pedroso Marton Gyetvai  William Pettersson Ana Viana

ABSTRACT: Following up the proposal of (Klimentova, Viana, Pedroso and Santos 2019), we  consider the usage of a compensation scheme for multi-country kidney exchange programmes to balance out the benefits of cooperation.  The novelty of our study is to base the target solution
on the Shapley value of the corresponding TU-game, rather than on marginal contributions. We compare the long term performances of the above two fairness concepts by conducting simulations on realistically generated kidney exchange pools.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Tools to allocate medical supplies in a crisis: Cramton, Ockenfels, Roth and Wilson in Nature

Publishing a commentary in Nature is a dizzying process for anyone accustomed to the stately dance of publishing in Economics.  It's fast (in this case the commentary below appeared one month after submission), and the editors play an active role.

Borrow crisis tactics to get COVID-19 supplies to where they are needed
Emergency procedures that keep electricity running and food banks stocked can also keep health workers in protective equipment.
Peter Cramton, Axel Ockenfels, Alvin E. Roth and Robert B. Wilson
Nature 582, 334-336, 11 JUNE 2020 doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01750-6

We began thinking about what market designers know about addressing shortages in an emergency.  We considered the experience in electricity markets and food banks as potentially relevant.
Here are some of our early notes:
  • Selling to the highest bidder isn’t always acceptable in an emergency (repugnance)
  • But prices matter, because they help generate new supply and reduce excessive  precautionary demand
  • And prices can do some of their work even if just in specialized accounting money, so that we’re not just sending supplies to the wealthiest institutions
  • Coordination is needed; centralized clearinghouses can help.
  • It would have been useful to have had a sufficiently centralized clearinghouse operating as an ordinary market exchange in normal times, that could go into emergency mode when required (so that new suppliers and demanders would have had an address to go to to take part in newly formed supply chains...)
  • Our experience in this regard now (after wave 1 of COVID-19) should inform how we think about these markets in the near future (wave 2, next winter, etc.) and the further future (future pandemic diseases...)
  • In some respects Germany may be better poised to take steps towards a centralized clearinghouse than we are in the decentralized U.S., especially given our current political disarray. (But Germany has politics of its own...)
  • It will be worthwhile to think more about the design of markets that are robust against emergencies –  so they can transition gracefully from normal to emergency states, and back.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The pandemic market for disinfectants (including Bourbon scented hand sanitizer)

Disinfectants, particularly those used in medical settings, are regulated, both to make sure that they are effective at disinfecting, and to make sure that they don't have negative (e.g. toxic) properties on people or animals or households.

The OECD summarizes the situation in a few countries from (in alphabetical order) Australia to the United States:

Emergency responses for the supply of disinfectants against Covid-19

Some further information is available on the website of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)

Some regulatory processes have been speeded up during the covid-19 pandemic, to allow new entrants into the market to relieve shortages.  One consequence of that is that, in the U.S. you can now buy bourbon-scented hand sanitizer, from bourbon distilleries in Kentucky and elsewhere:

See Public Sale of Hand Sanitizer – Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Laws and law enforcement for actions whose illegality is controversial (the case of 'honor killing')

Repugnant transactions and actions are sometimes banned with the full force of the law: consider  e.g. narcotics trafficking in the U.S., where our prisons are full of people convicted of drug crimes.   But sometimes, a legal ban comes with just a slap on the wrist: e.g., also in the U.S., prostitution is illegal almost everywhere, but mostly treated as a misdemeanor, not a serious crime. 

The punishment may not always fit the crime, but it tells us something about how legislators view the seriousness of the crime. 

So I was struck by the first sentences of this NY Times story about an "honor killing" in Iran:

A Daughter Is Beheaded, and Iran Asks if Women Have a Right to Safety
The so-called honor killing of a 14-year-old girl in Iran has shaken the country and forced an examination of its failure to protect women and children.

"Before he beheaded his 14-year-old daughter with a farming sickle, Reza Ashrafi called a lawyer.

"His daughter, Romina, was going to dishonor the family by running off with her 29-year-old boyfriend, he said. What kind of punishment, he asked the lawyer, would he get for killing her?

"The lawyer assured him that as the girl’s guardian he would not face capital punishment but at most 3 to 10 years in jail, Mr. Ashrafi’s relatives told an Iranian newspaper.

"Three weeks later, Mr. Ashrafi, a 37-year-old farmer, marched into the bedroom where the girl was sleeping and decapitated her.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Cognomos--course allocation software by Eric Budish et al.

Cognomos is a site that will put school administrators in touch with the designers of  Wharton's Course Match, which I've blogged about here and here with links to the underlying academic papers.

You can hear Eric Budish talk about it in the videos below.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Policing in our decentralized American democracy

The current dismal news about how American minorities are often more endangered than protected by American police forces raises a market design problem.  How can police departments be reformed, in a vast, diverse democracy, where the responsibility for policing falls largely on the smallest government units, namely towns and cities and counties?

While many responsibilities are local, government at the state and federal level (and the courts) have a role in regulating police work and in providing collective resources such as training that can't be provided effectively at the municipal level.

Here's the May 2015 (Obama era) report published by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS):

 Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Washington, DC: Office
of Community Oriented Policing Services. May 2015.

The overall thrust of the report is that policing is a community activity (the word "community appears 318 times), and should have a "guardian" rather than a "warrior" culture. The report has many chillingly timely recommendations. E.g.:

"2.7 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should create policies and procedures for policing mass demonstrations that employ a continuum of managed tactical resources that are designed to minimize the appearance of a military operation and avoid using provocative tactics and equipment that undermine civilian trust."

"6.1.3 Action Item: The Federal Government should support the continuing research into the efficacy of an annual mental health check for officers, as well as fitness, resilience, and nutrition."

"6.4 RECOMMENDATION: Every law enforcement officer should be provided with individual tactical first aid kits and training as well as anti-ballistic vests."

The 2016 presidential elections intervened, and this report was shelved.  Many of the authors have retreated into a private sector consulting organization named after the report on 21st Century Policing:

"21CP is an outgrowth of many of its consultant’s experiences on the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. That Task Force produced a pioneering report on contemporary policing, creating a common-sense law enforcement agenda based on input from criminal justice experts, community leaders, law enforcement, and civil liberties advocates. The recommendations have been endorsed by the Major Cities Chief Association, embraced by the National League of Cities, and heralded by community organizations and civil rights activists.

"21CP Solution’s trusted police leaders and experts work on the ground in police departments across the country – leading large departments and assisting smaller agencies. Public safety in partnership with the community is not a theoretical enterprise for 21CP."

One imagines that some of these individuals could be recruited to government service if a different administration takes office in Washington in 2021.

One of the principals in 21CP, who was the director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services  at the time the above report was issued, is Ronald L. Davis, who came to COPS from East Palo Alto (where I lived briefly in 1978 while visiting Stanford, and near where I now live), where he was chief of police.  Here's an excerpt from the announcement of his appointment to COPS in 2013:

"Attorney General Eric Holder today announced Ronald L. Davis as the director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).  Davis comes to COPS from the East Palo Alto Police Department, where he served as Chief of Police since 2005.
"In East Palo Alto, Davis led an organizational reform and community-policing effort that increased public trust and confidence and achieved dramatic crime and violence reductions in a city once dubbed the murder capital of the United States.  Davis also partnered with the  Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to implement a pilot parole-reentry program that provided programming and enforcement services and a job program with the California Department of Transportation.  The East Palo Alto Police Department was the first police agency in the state to operate a state-funded reentry program.  Return-to-custody rates dropped from more than 60 percent to less than 20 percent during this program."

Under the current administration in Washington, the Federal government has stepped back from police reform in a number of ways.  Here's a story that ran yesterday in the Guardian:

Trump's scrapping of Obama-era reforms hinders police reform
Trump’s justice department has dropped the use of consent decrees to bring federal oversight of troubled police departments  by Ed Pilkington.

"Under Donald Trump, the US justice department has allowed federal mechanisms designed to impose change on racist police agencies to wither on the vine. As a result, law enforcement agencies that practice racial profiling, use excessive force and other forms of unconstitutional policing are now free from federal oversight.

"The most important of those tools, known as consent decrees, were deployed extensively by the Barack Obama administration in the wake of previous high-profile police killings of unarmed black men. They included the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014; 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, that same year; and the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland.

"Under Obama, 14 consent decrees were enforced upon troubled and discriminatory police agencies. By contrast, none have been issued in the more than three years of the Trump administration.
"Consent decrees fall under the 1994 Law Enforcement Misconduct Act that was passed by Congress in the wake of the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police three years earlier. The statute allows the US government to sue local police agencies that engage in “patterns and practices” of unconstitutional policing and fail to comply with essential reforms."

For the record, here is the Law Enforcement Misconduct Statute, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, which is part of U.S. civil rights legislation:

(a) Unlawful conduct
 It shall be unlawful for any governmental authority, or any agent thereof, or any person acting on behalf of a governmental authority, to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers or by officials or employees of any governmental agency with responsibility for the administration of juvenile justice or the incarceration of juveniles that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
(b) Civil action by Attorney General
Whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that a violation of paragraph (1) has occurred, the Attorney General, for or in the name of the United States, may in a civil action obtain appropriate equitable and declaratory relief to eliminate the pattern or practice.

Two stories in the Washington Post together frame the current political moment:

Here's the first:
‘Defund the police’ gains traction as cities seek to respond to demands for a major law enforcement shift  By Derek Hawkins, Katie Mettler and Perry Stein   June 7, 2020

"Though long a concept floated among left-leaning activists and academics, officials from Washington to Los Angeles are now seriously considering ways to scale back their police departments and redirect funding to social programs. The moves would be a strong show of solidarity with protesters, who are clamoring for social justice and to strike back at what they see as an oppressive force across the country."

And here's the second:
Protesters hope this is a moment of reckoning for American policing. Experts say not so fast.  By
Kimberly Kindy and Michael Brice-Saddler   June 7, 2020

"Charles H. Ramsey, a former chief in the District and Philadelphia and co-chair of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, said perhaps the biggest obstacle to nationwide change is the unwieldy way in which police departments are organized. With every city, town, state and county fielding its own force, he said, it’s hard to standardize training and policies.

“Regionalizing them would be a solid first step,” Ramsey said. “But then you get into the politics. Every county and every mayor; they want their own police force, they want their own chief.”

"For that reason, a coalition of nearly 400 disparate organizations is focusing on securing federal reforms. Last week, the group — including the NAACP, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Music Therapy Association — sent a joint letter to congressional leaders calling for legislation to combat police violence.

“With so many police departments, it is important that there is federal action,” said Vanita Gupta, a former head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

"Although past efforts at policing reforms stalled in Congress, Booker expressed optimism, noting that civil rights legislation has always traveled a bumpy road. "

Sunday, June 7, 2020

How will the pandemic affect the medical Match?

Some thoughts on the medical match in JAMA:

Potential Implications of COVID-19 for the 2020-2021 Residency Application Cycle
Maya M. Hammoud, MD, MBA1; Taylor Standiford, BS1; J. Bryan Carmody, MD, MPH2
JAMA. Published online June 03, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.8911

"Even before COVID-19, calls to reform the residency selection process were becoming more frequent.1,2 Many issues are related to the increasing number of programs to which applicants apply. In 2019-2020, applicants from US medical schools applied to an average of 65 programs, and international medical graduates (IMGs) applied to an average of 137 programs.3 This number of applications likely does not improve match rates and imposes a substantial cost on applicants and a potentially unmanageable load on program directors.

"It is possible that the disruptions caused by COVID-19 may result in an increase in the number of applications and further stress this already challenged system. Due to testing center closures, many applicants have been unable to take portions of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This is especially critical for IMGs, who must pass the Step 2 Clinical Skills Examination to obtain certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates and apply to US residency programs. Additionally, medical schools have shortened clerkships, shifted to virtual rotations, and canceled away electives, all of which may reduce student opportunities to obtain meaningful faculty evaluations, letters of recommendation, and signal their interest to programs. Students will encounter significant uncertainty regarding how their applications will be evaluated and may respond by applying to even more programs.

Program directors may have difficulty identifying applicants to interview without use of traditional screening metrics. Yet, challenges will persist even after interviews are offered; if travel disruptions and social distancing persist into the interview season, programs may be unable to offer in-person interviews. Temporary solutions, such as conducting virtual interviews or waiving requirements for USMLE scores and letters of recommendation, will be necessary for the selection process to function. But these stopgap solutions may exacerbate existing problems with residency selection and lead to undesirable consequences. For instance, the use of virtual interviews could result in applicants participating in more interviews. Currently, the number of interviews an applicant attends is limited by time and travel expense, but these constraints will be less relevant with virtual interviews. Yet because many programs rely on the same screening metrics, many programs already overinvite the same pool of highly-qualified applicants, with just 7% to 21% of the applicant pool filling half of all interview slots in some specialties.4 The result of those applicants accepting more interview invitations could be an increase in both the number of unmatched applicants and unfilled programs.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

USP celebrates Marilda Sotomayor: “It was like a good dream, in the middle of this nightmare that we are living in”

The JORNAL DA USP, the newspaper of the Universidade de São Paulo, celebrates Marilda Sotomayor on the occasion of her election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“Foi como um sonho bom, no meio desse pesadelo que estamos vivendo”
“It was like a good dream, in the middle of this nightmare that we are living in”
Retired FEA professor, mathematics Marilda Sotomayor tells how she was invited to join the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Google translate does a pretty good job on Marilda's story of her journey from mathematics to mathematical economics, and matching theory.

Friday, June 5, 2020

The design of the economics profession, in the Journal of Economic Literature

The current issue of the JEL actually includes several papers on market design. The one I blogged about yesterday concerns market design as an outward facing part of economics--economists help others design the markets they need.  The two I'll mention today are about the design of the academic profession of Economics itself, chiefly through the design of our system of publications (which in turn determines professional rewards like tenure and prestige).  Both papers argue that the norms of publishing in well-regarded journals may inhibit economists (particularly young economists) from tackling important problems in unconventional ways.

Sins of Omission and the Practice of Economics
George A. Akerlof
Journal of Economic Literature 2020, 58(2), 405–418   https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.20191573

Abstract: "This paper advances the proposition that economics, as a discipline, gives rewards that favor the “hard” and disfavor the “soft.” Such bias leads economic research to ignore important topics and problems that are difficult to approach in a “hard” way— thereby resulting in “sins of omission.” This paper argues for reexamination of current institutions for publication and promotion in economics—as it also argues for greatly increased tolerance in norms for publication and promotion as one way of alleviating narrow methodological biases."

Publishing and Promotion in Economics: The Tyranny of the Top Five
James J. Heckman and Sidharth Moktan*
Journal of Economic Literature 2020, 58(2), 419–470  https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.20191574

Abstract: "This paper examines the relationship between placement of publications in top five (T5) journals and receipt of tenure in academic economics departments. Analyzing the job histories of tenure-track economists hired by the top 35 US economics departments, we find that T5 publications have a powerful influence on tenure decisions and rates of transition to tenure. A survey of the perceptions of young economists supports the formal statistical analysis. Pursuit of T5 publications has become the obsession of the next generation of economists. However, the T5 screen is far from reliable. A substantial share of influential publications appear in non-T5 outlets. Reliance on the T5 to screen talent incentivizes careerism over creativity."

Thursday, June 4, 2020

David Levine on market design, in the Journal of Economic Literature

David Levine uses a book review in the JEL as an opportunity to think about what distinguishes real market design from imitations.

Radical Markets by Eric Posner and E. Glen Weyl: A Review Essay
David K. Levine
Journal of Economic Literature 2020, 58(2), 471–487   https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.20191533

Abstract: "At a time when standards of living have improved more than any time in history, this
book makes a proposal for radical change. It is based—loosely—on market design principles. The plan for attacking overlapping ownership is reasonably well thought out. Most of the book, however, proposes to use mechanisms designed for a narrow purpose; to attack real or imagined problems that they are ill-suited to solve. I conclude that while market design has a lot to offer when properly applied, the proposals here are not sufficiently well thought out to constitute a serious plan of action."

And here are his concluding paragraphs:

"The authors have a message. Market design is great and it is easy. Markets are sloppy affairs: sometimes buyers post prices, sometimes sellers, some goods are sold at auction, others on exchanges … some are even sold (sniff, sniff) through bargaining. We can fix this: we’ll replace all of these nasty old markets with a simple clean government run auction. The poor will become rich and the rich will have to work for a living!

"I have a message. Market design is great and it is hard. Allocating oil leases is not the same as allocating the radio spectrum. Thick markets are not the same as thin markets. Auctions are complicated. Private information may lie on the buyer side, on the seller side, or both. Real market designers know this. They tailor solutions to problems: having designed an algorithm for allocating residents to hospitals and faced with the problem of matching kidney donors to patients they did not blindly claim to have solved that problem, but instead dug into the details and designed an algorithm for the kidney matching problem. Real market designers sweat the details: they improve lives and prosperity. Listen to real market designers."

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Kidney Exchange: an Operations Perspective by Ashlagi and Roth

Here's a survey that puts some emphasis on the many changes in the design of kidney exchange operations and processes that have moved it from its small beginnings to its current situation facilitating annual transplants in the thousands, and might help to scale it up further, since the supply of transplants is still far short of the need. 

Kidney Exchange: an Operations Perspective
Itai Ashlagi and Alvin E. Roth
May 2020

Abstract: Many patients in need of a kidney transplant have a willing but incompatible living donor. Kidney exchange programs arrange exchanges among such incompatible patient-donor pairs, in cycles and chains of exchange, so each patient receives a compatible kidney. Kidney exchange has become a standard form of transplantation in the United States and a few other countries, in large part because of continued attention to the operational details that arose as obstacles were overcome and new obstacles became relevant. We review some of the key operational issues in the design of successful kidney exchange programs. Kidney exchange has yet to reach its full potential, and the paper further describes some open questions that we hope will continue to attract attention from researchers interested in the operational aspects of dynamic exchange.

Here's the concluding paragraph:

"Looking back, kidney exchange has accomplished a lot, but not nearly enough. The number of people waiting for a kidney transplant is growing, despite the growth of exchange. But there is room for kidney exchange to continue to grow and to increase the availability of transplants further, by designing international kidney exchanges, by starting chains with deceased donor kidneys, and by introducing other market design innovations that have yet to be explored or even conceived."

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Market Design, Human Behavior, and Management, by Chen, Cramton, List and Ockenfels

Here is a sweeping review of some of the highlights of market design, notable for its attention to the role of experiments.

Market Design, Human Behavior, and Management
Yan Chen, Peter Cramton, John A. List, Axel Ockenfels
NBER Working Paper No. 26873
Issued in March 2020

Abstract: We review past research and discuss future directions on how the vibrant research areas of market design and behavioral economics have influenced and will continue to impact the science and practice of management in both the private and public sectors. Using examples from various auction markets, reputation and feedback systems in online markets, matching markets in education, and labor markets, we demonstrate that combining market design theory, behavioral insights, and experimental methods can lead to fruitful implementation of superior market designs in practice.

And here's their concluding paragraph:

Many opportunities and challenges in market design have to do with recent advances in computer and communication technology, which often allow for radical innovation in market design. Indeed, smart markets are popping up everywhere, from new kidney exchanges, dating, job and ride hailing markets, ad and spectrum auctions, to innovative climate, electricity and financial markets. The development of these markets not only creates new business opportunities to benefit our social and economic lives, but also improve our scientific understanding of engineering incentives and markets.There is probably no other field in economics and management science, where researchers and practitioners gain so much by carefully listening to and working with one another. In this spirit, perhaps the most foundational change for generation of knowledge is that researchers will increasingly have to use the carpool lane in their own work, for riding alone will soon be an  inefficient choice in the knowledge production game

Monday, June 1, 2020

Interview congestion in the Ophthalmology Residency Match

An ophthalmology residency program surveyed all its applicants on their experience in the match:

Current Applicant Perceptions of the Ophthalmology Residency Match
Michael J. Venincasa, MD; Louis Z. Cai, MD; Steven J. Gedde, MD; Tara Uhler, MD; Jayanth Sridhar, MD
JAMA Ophthalmology May 2020 Volume 138, Number 5 

"Hundreds of individuals apply for ophthalmology residency positions each year using the Centralized Application Services (CAS), administered by San Francisco Residency and Fellowship Matching Services (SF Match). Although the match rate remains relatively stable at approximately 75%, the mean number of applications submitted has risen from 48 in 2008 to 75 in 2019.1,2 In 2010, highly qualified applicants were advised to apply to between 10 and 20 residency programs,3 but more recent studies suggested a target of 45 applications for these applicants and more than 80 for applicants with less competitive qualification.2 The application process represents a considerable financial burden for applicants; in 2018-2019, the CAS application alone cost $685 to apply to 45 programs, which increased to $1910 for 80 programs. These high costs are not unique to ophthalmology. In emergency medicine, the cost of securing a residency position was estimated at $8312 in 2016.4

These trends also come with increasing administrative burden for residency programs tasked with reviewing rising numbers of applications. As a result, many programs have increasingly emphasized quantifiable cognitive measures, such as clinical grades and the US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) board scores.3 The USMLE Step 1 scores and Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Society membership are factors with statistically significant associations with matching into an ophthalmology residency.5
"Respondents applied to a mean (SD) of 76.4 (23.5) ophthalmology residency programs, received 14.0 (9.0) invitations to interview (Figure 1), and attended 10.3 (4.4) interviews
"When respondents received an interview invitation without the involvement of a wait-list, they most commonly reported receiving the invitation between 3 and 4 weeks prior to the interview date (n = 87 [47.8%]). When instead receiving their invitation from a wait-list (n = 92 [49.7%]), the most common lead time was 1 to 2 weeks prior to the interview date (n = 43 [46.2%]), with 20 (21.5%) invitations arriving less than 1 week prior
"Many applicants struggled with scheduling conflicts with other residency programs, where interview dates overlapped or the desired date was filled at the time of invitation response. Certain dates were especially popular for residency programs, with 23 of 116 programs (19.8%) holding interviews on a single day during the 2018-2019 interview cycle.

Note that the Ophtalmology residency match is run by SFMatch, not the larger NRMP, but the growing number of applications and interviews are common to both matching platforms.