Saturday, April 1, 2023

Headlines that could have appeared on April 1

 Grim news largely crowded out funny news this past 12 months, but not completely (and some grim news is also funny).

National Park Service Asks Visitors to Please Stop Licking Toads (NYT, Nov, 2022)

Wyoming lawmakers propose ban on electric vehicle sales (The Hill, 01/16/23) "A group of GOP Wyoming state lawmakers want to end electric vehicle sales there by 2035, saying the move will help safeguard the oil and gas industries."

Sex on the beach: pressures of extreme polygamy may be driving southern elephant seals to early death (Guardian, March 2023)

Idaho governor signs firing squad execution bill into law, AP, March 25, 2023. "... making Idaho the latest state to turn to older methods of capital punishment amid a nationwide shortage of lethal-injection drugs. ...firing squads will be used only if the state cannot obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Opioids and Appalachia by Sally Satel

 Sally Satel, who has treated patients in Appalachia, writes movingly of the drug addiction problem there. Here's a paragraph that sets the stage.

"The history of opioid pain relievers in Appalachia is a prime illustration of the fact that drug epidemics rarely burst onto the scene out of nowhere. Instead, they find their place in regions that are already home to an established base of individuals who abuse similar drugs. Thus illicit OxyContin, a more potent opioid, efficiently gained popularity over Percocet and Vicodin in the same way heroin would substitute for prescription opioids as the latter grew scarce after 2010."

That's from Opioids and Appalachia by Sally Satel, in the current issue of National Affairs.

The whole thing is well worth reading; here are a few more paragraphs that caught my eye.

"The churn of pills — diverting, using, and selling them — soon had eastern Kentucky, southeastern Ohio, and West Virginia pulsing with crime. Realtors routinely told home sellers not to leave pills in their medicine chests during open houses. Funeral directors and hospice nurses cautioned the bereaved not to mention in obituaries that their loved ones had succumbed to cancer — a red flag signaling that huge bottles of pills were likely on the premises. In eastern Kentucky, local law enforcement was often stymied by close ties between people within communities. Loyalty within large families and fear of retaliation by neighbors made it hard to cultivate informants and to impanel neutral juries that would convict when prosecutors proved their case.


"Appalachians seemed to take the corruption in grudging stride. In one survey, 90% of over 100 Kentuckians working in law enforcement, health, and community governance said the rural OxyContin problem in the early 2000s was "fueled by a cultural acceptance of drug misuse." Indeed, many residents tolerated unlawful activity, since it generated revenue for the community from sales of pills to outsiders. This happened in places like Williamson, West Virginia — dubbed "Pilliamson" — where the local Wellness Center was a hub of reckless prescribing. Cash-laden out-of-staters flocked there to buy painkillers and, in a small area near the center, trade and sell those pills.

"Pablo Escobar and El Chapo couldn't have set things up any better," wrote Eyre. "The coal barons no longer ruled Appalachia. Now it was the painkiller profiteers."


"Today, opioid pills are no longer pouring into Appalachia as they once did; highly lethal products like fentanyl-laced heroin, methamphetamine, and counterfeit fentanyl pills are what people are selling."

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Deceased-donor transplants: UNOS in the crosshairs

 There is unprecedented political will aiming towards reform of the system by which organs for transplant are recovered from deceased donors in the U.S. and allocated to patients in need of a transplant.  Here are two opposing views about current proposals to reform or replace the current government contractor in charge of this system, UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing..

From NPR:

The Government's Plan To Fix A Broken Organ Transplant System, March 28, 2023

You can listen here:

"For nearly 40 years, the United Network for Sharing Organs (UNOS) has controlled the organ transplant system.

"But that's about to change. Last week, the government announced plans to completely overhaul the system by breaking up the network's multi-decade monopoly.

"For those who need an organ transplant, the process is far from easy. On average, 17 people die each day awaiting transplants. More than 100,000 people are currently on the transplant waiting list according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

"UNOS has been criticized for exacerbating the organ shortage. An investigation by the Senate Finance Committee released last year found that the organization lost, discarded, and failed to collect thousands of life-saving organs each year.

"Can the government reverse decades of damage by breaking up control? And what does this move mean for those whose lives are on the line?

"The Washington Post's Health and Medicine Reporter Lenny Bernstein, Federation of American Scientists Senior Fellow Jennifer Erickson, and Director at the Vanderbilt Transplant Center Dr. Seth Karp join us for the conversation. Dr. Karp was also a former board member for The United Network for Sharing Organs


And here's an alternate view, by three professors of surgery at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, saying that the system isn't badly broken at all, and that attempts to fix it may lead to coordination failures that, at least in the short term, will cause additional problems.

From MedPageToday:

Our Organ Transplant System Isn't the Failure It's Made Out to Be. — Upholding the system will save lives  by Peter G. Stock, MD, PhD, Nancy L. Ascher, MD, PhD, and John P. Roberts, MD, March 24, 2023

"Thanks to a robust network of hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and government support, the U.S. remains a leader in organ transplantation. This community, which is managed by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), saves tens of thousands of lives every year. Despite this success, opponents of UNOS are advocating to dismantle the transplant system as we know it.


"As transplant surgeons with a long history of involvement with the system -- including one of us (Roberts) serving as a past Board President of UNOS/Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) -- we have intimate knowledge of both its successes and its shortcomings. While UNOS has room to improve operationally -- and is working to do so -- we clearly see the organization's life-changing results in our operating rooms and offices. More work lies ahead, however, such as addressing the fact that a rising number of organs are recovered but not transplanted.

"Neither UNOS nor organ procurement organizations (OPOs), which facilitate recovery and organ offers to hospitals, have control over whether medical centers ultimately accept and transplant organs into patients. Though the former two have taken all the blame to date, this remains an issue that concerns the entire system. Leaving our nation's transplant centers out of this critical discussion is a serious oversight. For our entire system to save more lives, transplant centers need to have clear organ acceptance criteria, the appropriate resources to process available organs, and the tools and flexibility to utilize organs from more medically complex donors.


"The recommendations for division of labor as suggested this week by Carole Johnson, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), may be well intentioned but present a significant risk of further fragmentation and negative consequences due to a lack of coordination between government agencies and contractors. This coordination is essential for a functional and successful system. UNOS specifically has been handicapped by a meager budget for years, and despite this has a well-developed system. We believe that given the recent 10-fold budget increase by the Biden administration, the current contractor has the potential to rectify the shortcomings that have been highlighted in the press."


Earlier posts:

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Pay transparency, horizontally, vertically, and across firms, by Zoe Cullen

 Information architecture is an important part of market design. Here's a nuanced review of pay transparency by Zoe Cullen, dealing with the non-obvious effects of horizontal transparency (letting workers know what similar workers are paid), vertical transparency (finding out how pay proceeds up the career ladder), and cross-firm transparency (what other firms are paying).

Is Pay Transparency Good?  by Zoe B. Cullen, NBER working paper 31060, DOI 10.3386/w31060 March 2023

Abstract: Countries around the world are enacting pay transparency policies to combat pay discrimination. 71% of OECD countries have done so since 2000. Most are enacting transparency horizontally, revealing pay between co-workers of similar seniority within a firm. While these policies have narrowed co-worker wage gaps, they have also lead to counterproductive peer comparisons and caused employers to bargain more aggressively, lowering average wages. Other pay transparency policies, without directly targeting discrimination, have benefited workers by addressing broader information frictions in the labor market. Vertical pay transparency policies reveal to workers pay differences across different levels of seniority. Empirical evidence suggests these policies can lead to more accurate and more optimistic beliefs about earnings potential, increasing employee motivation and productivity. Cross-firm pay transparency policies reveal wage differences across employers. These policies have encouraged workers to seek jobs at higher paying firms, negotiate higher pay, and sharpened wage competition between employers. We discuss the evidence on pay transparency’s effects, and open questions.

And from the conclusions:

"We conclude that “horizontal” pay transparency policies that reveal pay gaps between co-workers at the same firm create unintended spillovers between worker negotiations that lower worker bargaining power and wages. This characterizes the strong majority of pay transparency policies that have been put in place over the past two decades. However, policies that focus on ameliorating information frictions in the labor market more broadly have achieved the objectives of raising wages and equity. “Cross-firm” and “vertical” pay transparency policies have proven potential to increase motivation, allocation of talent, and sharpen competition. These policies are not designed to draw attention to employers who pay similar workers different wages, but instead these policies educate workers about the full range of opportunities to earn higher wages when they make decisions about training, where to apply, and how hard to work. Our evidence on misperceptions suggests low earners have the most to gain from improved access to this information. Pay transparency policies can also have pro-competitive effects by educating employers about market wages, eroding information rents when employers have private knowledge about the value workers bring to the job.

"Cross-firm pay transparency policies have recently gained traction among policy makers. In January of 2023, California and Washington became the second and third states in the U.S. to mandate that employers include a salary range in the job postings external job candidates see, following on the heels of Colorado and New York City. This is a big step toward making pay information available at the time workers are choosing where to direct their applications, and employers expect that this will lead applicants to direct their applications toward higher paying firms, increasing wage competition."


And here's a quick story about that paper in yesterday's WSJ.

Knowing Everyone’s Salaries Can Light a Fire Under Workers. Seeing a career path to advancement—and believing the process is fair—motivates employees, studies show. By Courtney Vinopal, March 28, 2023

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Bride price in China

 The NY Times has the story:

In China, Marriage Rates Are Down and ‘Bride Prices’ Are Up. China’s one-child policy has led to too few women. Grooms are now paying more money for wives, in a tradition that has faced growing resistance.  By Nicole Hong and Zixu Wang

"As China faces a shrinking population, officials are cracking down on an ancient tradition of betrothal gifts to try to promote marriages, which have been on the decline. Known in Mandarin as caili, the payments have skyrocketed across the country in recent years — averaging $20,000 in some provinces — making marriage increasingly unaffordable. The payments are typically paid by the groom’s parents.

"To curb the practice, local governments have rolled out propaganda campaigns such as the Daijiapu event, instructing unmarried women not to compete with one another in demanding the highest prices. Some town officials have imposed caps on caili or even directly intervened in private negotiations between families.


"Officials have acknowledged their limited ability to eliminate a custom that many families see as a marker of social status. In rural areas, neighbors may gossip about women who command low prices, questioning whether something is wrong with them, according to researchers who study the custom.



Friday, September 28, 2018

Monday, March 27, 2023

Alex Chan

 Congratulations, Alex.

I will join as an Assistant Professor next academic year! 🙏🙏 to the sacrifices my family made for me + their support… #HBS #FirstGen + my advisors who made this dream possible #AlRoth

And earlier (in October)

Welcome to the club, Alex.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

The economics and politics of compensating kidney donors, by McCormick and Held

Political feasibility is an unavoidable consideration in any discussion of compensating kidney donors.  McCormick and Held take the latest a stab at it. 

How to End the Kidney Shortage. Few if any of these news stories lamenting the kidney shortage or touting hightech breakthroughs mention that we already have a solution to the shortage: compensating kidney donors to induce more supply  By Frank McCormick and Philip J. Held, SPRING 2023 • REGULATION (CATO Institute).

"A crucial question remains: what level of compensation should the government offer to kidney donors? The answer is a political judgment call that involves the tradeoff between the number of patients saved from premature death and the probability of getting a particular law or regulation changed.