Monday, November 23, 2009

Final remarks in our market design class

Harvard's new academic calendar and Thanksgiving combined to produce an early end to the lecture part of our Market Design class. I ended with some concluding remarks (here are the accompanying slides: 12.3 concluding remarks ).

One remark is that market design is an eclectic field, drawing on game theory, experiments, computation, and field observation of all sorts (rules are data!).

Teaching the class over the last not-quite-a-decade has been an invigorating intellectual experience. When Paul Milgrom and I began the class (when he spent a year at Harvard in 2001), he had the FCC spectrum auction experience under his belt, and I had the redesign of the National Resident Matching Program under mine, and we had plenty of ideas.

I entertained a faint worry that, at the end of the decade, those might still be the only major applications we had to talk about. But, as things turned out, we can no longer fit all the newly implemented market designs into one course (and Susan Athey will again teach a second semester of Market Design, focused on many recent auction applications, in the Spring). Among the designs we talked about this semester are other health care labor markets, Kidney Exchange, School choice mechanisms, signaling for new economists, internet ad auctions, and more.

I've also been gratified by developments in market design as a field of study. Not only have there been successful applications, there's starting to be an academic literature focused on practical market design, and the theoretical and empirical questions it raises. While there are still some special obstacles that have to be overcome to publish market design papers in general economics journals, we've come a long way since I worried about that in my 2002 paper "The Economist as Engineer: Game Theory, Experimentation, and Computation as Tools for Design Economics.

As I remarked in two earlier posts (see Market design is coming of age, and Market design courses this Fall at Harvard and MIT) another sign that the field is healthy is that it is attracting some of the most creative young minds. Some alumni of Harvard and the course who are presently active in market design and/or matching are Estelle Cantillon (with whom I taught the course for two years), Muriel Niederle, John Asker, Nicole Immorlica, Mohammad Mahdian, Michael Ostrovsky, Parag Pathak, Fuhito Kojima, Robin Lee, Mihai Manea, Eric Budish, and Scott Kominers.

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