Friday, January 31, 2014

Stanford Connects in Pasadena, Feb 1

Expand your mind—and your network

Ready to meet President Hennessy, world-class faculty and hundreds of Stanford alums from Los Angeles and beyond? 
I'll be giving one of the seminars:

Who Gets What? The New Economics of Matching and Market Design

Alvin E. Roth, MS ’73, PhD ’74, is the Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

Professor Roth addresses recent developments in market design, for which he shared the 2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. He suggests ways to think about why some transactions may be regarded as repugnant, and how we might think about what are free markets.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dental residency match results

Elliott Peranson, who runs National Matching Services in Toronto, apparently has fond memories of our trip to Stockholm: here is the news release about the results of the recent Postdoctoral Dental Matching Program

Assignment of Dental Residency Positions Made with Nobel Prize Algorithm

The results released today by National Matching Services for the Postdoctoral Dental Matching Program placed 1721 applicants into postdoctoral dental residency positions. The Matching Program uses a mathematical algorithm to create a fair, transparent and efficient recruitment process.

"The results of the 29th annual Postdoctoral Dental Matching Program (the “Match”) were released today by National Matching Services Inc. (NMS). The Match places applicants into positions for the first year of accredited postdoctoral training in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, General Practice Residency, Advanced Education in General Dentistry and Dental Anesthesiology.
According to the data from NMS, 1721 of 1974 positions offered were filled in the Match, which is the highest fill rate in any of the last 15 years. The number of applicants participating in the Match increased by 3.3% to its highest level in Match history. According to Elliott Peranson, President of NMS, “the high level of applicant participation is being driven by the interest of current graduates of U.S. Dental schools to pursue advanced education.”
The Match uses the Roth-Peranson algorithm, which aligns the preferences of applicants and residency programs to generate an optimal result. The algorithm was designed by NMS and Stanford professor Alvin Roth, and was recognized in the awarding of Roth’s 2012 Nobel Prize in Economic Studies.
The algorithm acts as a central clearinghouse for all offers, acceptances and rejections. By centralizing the offer-acceptance process, both applicants and recruiters can be confident that they will receive the most preferred placement available to them. It creates a fair and efficient recruitment process that eliminates many of the common adverse situations found in competitive recruitment environments, like applicants hoarding offers and recruiters overfilling positions.
“We are very proud to be the trusted provider of matching services to the dental profession,” said Elliott Peranson. “By working closely with the sponsoring organizations of the Match, we have developed a Matching Program that leverages the power of the Roth-Peranson algorithm while fitting the unique needs of the postdoctoral dental residency recruitment environment.”
The Match to fill postdoctoral positions in dentistry has operated successfully since 1985 and has expanded to include six dental specialties. The Match is sponsored jointly by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the Special Care Dentistry Association Council of Hospital Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Association of Orthodontists, the American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists and the American Student Dental Association. In addition, the Match has been endorsed by the American Dental Association Council on Dental Education and Licensure, the American Dental Education Association, and the Veterans Administration
About National Matching Services:
National Matching Services is the leading outsourced provider of matching services to professional organizations and industry associations. Since 1985, NMS has designed and implemented Matching Programs for competitive recruitment in a variety of industries, including health, education and law. NMS Matching Programs take the stress out of recruitment by providing tools for sponsoring organizations to oversee the recruitment process and giving applicants and recruiters confidence that they will obtain the best possible placement. National Matching Services is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cash for kidneys: letters to the editor of the WSJ

The recent Becker-Elias article, about which I blogged about my thoughts here, has drawn some letters to the editor, which the WSJ published under the headline Is a Market in Kidneys the Right Answer to Shortage? It is a tragedy when people die while waiting for a lifesaving transplant, but paying for organs isn't the answer.

One of them, by Sigrid Fry-Revere, doesn't fit the sub-headline. She advocates adopting something like the market approach in Iran. Her unedited letter, which she shared by email, is below:

Letter to the Editor of WSJ
Edited version ran Sat. Jan 2014

The Rest of the Story

I read with great interest Gary S. Becker and Julio Elias article “Cash for Kidneys: The Case for a Market for Organs” in Saturday’s WSJ.  Like so many others who have written on this subject, their article misrepresents the Iranian system of compensated donation.

Usually not much is said about Iran, because not much is known, but I went to Iran and spent nearly two months interviewing paid kidney donors for a documentary film I was planning. I visited six different regions and returned with over 200 transplant stories.  There are too many misconceptions about what is going on in Iran to explain in one letter, but the most important thing I would like to point out is that paid kidney donors are people, not commodities, and no matter what the economics of the situation, there is a human element that can’t be ignored.

You might think I’m going to say we should not pay kidney donors, or that I’m going to rage about how exploitive kidney selling is. Not so. I learned many things on my trip to Iran, but the most important was sometimes money is what makes helping others possible.

The issue isn’t how much a kidney is worth, but how to make helping economically feasible and how best to show appreciation. I disagree with economists who say you can put value on someone giving up part of their body to save another person’s life. A conscious, informed decision, to risk oneself for another is an invaluable gift both to the person and to society.

Iran is the only country in the world that has solved its kidney shortage, and it has done so by legalizing and regulating compensated donation.  In the rest of the world there are two options:  Altruistic donation and the black market. The third option only exists in Iran where the rule of law protects donors and recipients alike. Paid donors are not treated like criminals, as is the case when the underprivileged are exploited for their kidneys on the black market. 

The Iranian system has developed over 30 years and continues to improve.  Today, paid donors are secure in their knowledge that the system works to protect their rights as much as the rights of recipients. Their money is put in escrow, the middlemen who arrange kidney matches are NGO volunteers, not black market profiteers, and they are treated on the same medical wards and in the same post-operative clinics as kidney recipients.  

How much are Iranian kidney donors paid for their service to humanity? Much more than the thank you, travel expenses, and occasional lost wages, paid altruistic donors in the United States. Iranian kidney donors receive the equivalent to six month’s salary for a registered nurse in Iran, or approximately $32,000 in the United States. But in addition to monetary compensation, they receive many goods and services that are hard to quantify in dollars.  All receive at least one year of health insurance, not just care related to their nephrectomy, as is the case in the United States. They also receive automatic exemption from Iran’s two-year mandatory military service.

Furthermore, Kidney donors often receive extra health insurance, sometimes for their whole family and often under terms where it can be renewed annually. They receive dental care at the NGO dental clinics that serve diabetes patients and kidney recipients. They receive job services, small business loans, and household goods.  I estimate the total average package paid donors receive in Iran is close to $45,000 in value. 

Most importantly, these paid donors know the government supports them for having done something honorable, like a paid firefighter or a paid emergency medical professional. They have saved a life -- and their contribution to society is invaluable.  Mohaghegh Damad, the ethicist for the Iranian Academy of Medical Sciences told me no payment could ever be enough. But, the payment Iranian kidney donors get, makes doing the right thing easier. 

In the United States 20-30 people die every day because they can’t get a kidney. Iran is the only country in the world where almost everyone who medically qualifies to get a kidney gets one, and in many regions of the country there is a waiting list for people who want to donate.  Maybe its time we learn something from their experience.

Sigrid Fry-Revere, J.D., PhD, is a bioethicist and founder and president of the non-profit organization Stop Organ Trafficking Now and author of The Kidney Sellers (Carolina Academic Press, 2014).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

More on unpaid internships and repugnance

Over at the Chronicle, the issue seems clear to journalism student Peter D'Amato: The Unpaid Internship Is Indefensible

And he's not alone, he reproduces this image:

My previous post on Should unpaid internships be repugnant drew some interesting comments...

Monday, January 27, 2014

New transplant statistics from Israel

The Jerusalem Post has the story: Israel Transplant Center reaches all-time high in number of transplants, potential donors

"Last year brought good news to the Israel Transplant Center and to 392 people whose lives were saved by deceased and live donors.

There was an increase by 24 percent of live kidney donors; 56% of family members of deceased agreed to donate organs; 90,000 more people signed donor cards; and almost half of those who received organs from deceased donors were advanced in the queue because they had signed a donor card.

In addition, the first transplant of a small intestine was successfully performed and 637 corneas were also transplanted in 769 patients (some were split into parts), giving recipients the gift of sight, the center announced on Sunday.

Of the 143 requests to families whose loved ones suffered lower-brain death, 80 of them consented to give one or more organs. The families said it was important to save the lives of others, while the most common reason for refusal were “religious” – even though modern Orthodox clergymen say donating fulfills a very important positive commandment – and the concern that the body to be buried would “not be whole.”

The figure of 392 donated organs was the highest ever.

Of these, 104 of the donors were from live relatives (who gave a kidney or liver lobe), and the rest were from altruistic families who gave their loves ones’ organs.

Of 248 organs from deceased donors, 109 of the recipients had to wait less because they had previously signed up as potential donors. The number of patients waiting to receive a lifesaving organ dropped from 1,114 in 2012 to 1,075 in 2013.

Of the 109 recipients who were advanced in the queue, four received hearts, 25 received lungs, 13 received livers and 67 received kidneys.

Of the deceased donors, 112 were donors of kidneys, 10 of kidney-pancreases, 5 double kidneys (usually from elderly donors), 57 of livers, one liver and kidney, 13 hearts, 24 double lungs, 25 single lungs and one “domino” donation of a liver (when an organ or part of one is removed for the primary purpose of a person’s medical treatment and may prove suitable for transplant into another person)."

HT: Jay Lavee

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Financial Times on looking into the future "In 100 Years"

Simon Kuper at the FT reviews the recent book of essays ‘In 100 Years: Leading Economists Predict the Future’, by Ignacio Palacios-Huerta (ed), MIT Press

The economist’s guide to the future

Prediction is hard, but so is summary. About my essay, he writes

Roth foresees parents manipulating their children’s genes. Some such methods, he writes, “may come to be seen as part of careful child rearing”. He also thinks people will become more efficient thanks to performance-enhancing drugs that improve “concentration, memory, or intelligence”.
Once humans have more years in good health, they will probably reorder their lives. Roth says that if child rearing takes up less of the lifespan, people may want different spouses for different phases of life. “New forms of polygamy-over-lifetime relationships” could arise, he writes.

You can see a longer summary and a link to the full essay here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Brookings Education Choice and Competition Index 2013

The Education Choice and Competition Index Background and Results 2013

RankSchool DistrictGradeCountyStudent Population No. of Schools
1Recovery DistrictAOrleans Parish, LA47,493126
2New York CityA-New York County, NY1,150,7952,431
3Orleans ParishA-Orleans Parish, LA51,042119
4HoustonBHarris County, TX220,754471
5DenverBDenver County, CO87,147229
6MinneapolisBHennepin County, MN46,165122
7Washington DCB-District Of Columbia, DC72,875295
8San DiegoB-San Diego County, CA146,207309
9TucsonB-Pima County, AZ66,505215
9ChicagoB-Cook County, IL427,945961

Executive summary:

"The United States is in the middle of a K-12 education revolution that is characterized by many dramatic transformations — among them, a shift toward more choice by parents in where their children are educated with public funds. This shift is signified by, among other things, the growth of public charter schools, the adoption of open enrollment systems for public schools, the expansion of statewide voucher programs, and continued increases in the availability of technology-based distance/virtual education.

"Although the expansion of choice in education is driven by a widely-recognized market model, which posits that allowing students and their families to choose schools and backpack their public funds will force education service providers to innovate and compete on the quality of their product, there is little available information about the current state of school choice in American education. For that reason, the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings compiles an annual Education Choice and Competition Index (ECCI) of 100+ U.S. school districts. The ECCI is based on scoring rubrics within thirteen categories of policy and practice that are important to the availability and quality of choice and to the competition created by choice among providers of education services.

"Based on these scoring principles, the Recovery School District in New Orleans and New York City Public Schools occupy the highest rankings on the 2013 ECCI, with scores of 83 and 73 points out of 100, respectively. Both districts occupied those same rankings in 2012, illustrating a larger trend uncovered by the ECCI: districts demonstrate little year-to-year change in their commitment to or design of school choice. The correlation between this year’s and last year’s aggregate district scores is 0.95. There are, however, exceptions. Denver dramatically improved its ranking, moving from 24th to fifth place, based on its implementation of a unified application process for all its public schools, including charters.

"Despite their high rankings, the Recovery School District and New York City, along with all other top-scoring districts, need improvements. And, as demonstrated by the 34 districts that received an “F” grade, zip code assignment and other policies antithetical to choice still represent standard operating procedure for many school districts across the country."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Scholarships for donors and donor family members

The Isabelle Christenson Memorial Scholarship honors the life of a brave transplant recipient who died when she was only 10 years old. It is a scholarship available to anyone connected to a donor or transplant recipient:

"Scholarship Requirements: Be an organ transplant candidate, recipient, donor family member, living donor or immediate family member of a transplant candidate or recipient  "

HT: Sangram Kadam

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Venture capital looks at the design of marketplaces

Not long ago I had a chance to listen to some interesting presentations at a conference sponsored by Greylock Partners, about businesses that aim to make marketplaces: As Marketplaces Evolve, Greylock Places Its Bets

"The idea of marketplaces as a business model for technology startups isn’t new. We saw some marketplaces go belly up in the bubble, and saw a few, like eBay, grow into massive businesses. However, the marketplace model has experienced a renaissance of sorts lately, with companies like Airbnb, Uber and others gaining serious traction and becoming billion-dollar-plus businesses.
Greylock Partners held a conference in mid-November devoted to talking about design, product development, the economics and more around marketplaces, spearheaded in part by the firm’s newest partner and former eBay Motors creator, Simon Rothman.
As part of its new $100 million commitment to investing in marketplaces, Greylock assembled Reid Hoffman, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, eBay CEOJohn Donahoe, Nobel Prize Laureate and marketplace expert Alvin Roth, and many others to discuss the rise of marketplaces and much more. I was able to sit down with some of the speakers to talk about their thoughts on why marketplaces are hot right now.
Hoffman, who founded LinkedIn and was an early investor in Facebook, sees many parallels between networks and marketplaces. On the similarities in both models, he says: “There’s a question of how do you identify people? What reputational systems underlie it? What kinds of information and signaling? What kind of transactions go public? There’s some differences, too, but it’s essentially a similar brain activity.”
As for why marketplaces are getting more attention now, Hoffman believes that it’s in part due to mobile and the progression in human behavior. “Now everyone is comfortable with the notion of, ‘Oh, I could actually find someone I don’t know and transact with them, either as travelers, hosts, sellers, buyer.’ Those that can actually work mean that I have some trust in these mechanisms,” he explains further.
Rothman agrees with Hoffman, and told me that trust is a huge element of why marketplaces have evolved, as well as the biggest challenge for these marketplaces. “They’re really selling trust. And until the web adds social identity, I think creating trust at scale is really hard. As we’ve heard, marketplace is about influence, and if you can’t control the experience, if you can’t control the product, you can’t control the fulfillment. All you can control is trust and you need to have that. And then mobile is an accelerant to that. If you are a local market, or a local business, you have to have mobile. There’s just no way Uber works without mobile,” he says.
So how do marketplaces add trust? Hoffman advises to look at mechanisms by which you can essentially borrow some trust and add it to the product, such as using social networks or identities. He recalled a product development from his PayPal days, where an engineer developed a better way to authenticate bank accounts.
For years, in order to authenticate a bank account you had to send in a voided check, and a copy of your drivers license. PayPal realized that if they wanted to get to scale, the company would have to make it easier to create accounts. “If we can’t solve this problem, we basically don’t have an interesting business model,” he said. One of the early engineers developed a way to send two sub-dollar transactions to the account, to create a PIN of sorts for instant verification.

While friction is something most marketplaces want to remove, Rothman argues that some should consider “the concept of strategic friction” when it comes to trust and safety. He thinks it’s one of the only places where friction is not only tolerable but kind of desirable.
"Hoffman says that Airbnb was creating liquidity out of space. Even if the hosts didn’t own their real estate, the liquidity involved is “hugely valuable and motivating to them.” So, they’ll adopt mobile products, and go through hoops to make that happen. “There was no question that this is going to work,” he says. 
Now that Greylock is allocating some of its new $1 billion in funding toward the marketplace model, we’ll be looking to see where the firm will be placing its bets. Rothman thinks that in the next five years there will be more $1 billion dollar marketplaces than there were in the past 20 years, and we already have quite a few that are rising fast. Stay tuned."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Webcast of the luncheon talks on market design from the 2014 AEA Annual Meeting

The AEA has posted a collection of webcasts from the 2014 annual meeting in Philadelphia, including from the
Nobel Laureate Luncheon
William Nordhaus; Paul Milgrom; Roger Myerson 
View Webcast

The video is a little less than an hour: and consists of brief introductions by Nordhaus, and talks on market design and its history by Milgrom and Myerson, and a short talk by me with some thoughts on the future of market design as economic engineering and the science that supports it.  (spoiler: I think it will be important to study congestion...)

Eleven 2014 Annual Meeting sessions are available online. (I enjoyed Claudia Goldin's magisterial address on gender and jobs, which reminded me of the work following up on this and the matching aspects of pursuing both careers and marriages, of our joint student Stephanie Hurder.):
  •    AEA Presidential Address "A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter" (Claudia Goldin)
  •    AEA Awards Ceremony (William Nordhaus)
  •    Richard T. Ely Lecture "Retirement Security in an Aging Population" (James Poterba)
  •    Nobel Laureate Luncheon (Paul Milgrom, Roger Myerson, and Alvin Roth)
  •    AEA/AFA Joint Luncheon (Jeremy Stein)
  •    Chairman Bernanke Presentation (Ben Bernanke, Kenneth Rogoff, and Anil Kashyap)
  •    What's Natural? Key Macroeconomic Parameters after the Great Recession
  •    Discounting for the Long Run
  •    Financial Globalization
  •    Climate Change Policy after Kyoto
  •    Macroeconomics of Austerity

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Scalper resistant Super Bowl tickets

Assaf Romm points me to the story: Take that, Super Bowl scalpers! Ticket-lottery winners to get non-transferable tickets

"Every year, the NFL holds a lottery for football fans for the next year’s Championship. Some 30,000 people entered this year, McCarthy said. The number of winners will double to 1,000, McCarthy said, and the price of the ticket will drop to $500, from last year’s $600.
But there’s a catch. Winners won’t get their tickets until game day, and they won’t be able to leave the stadium after receiving them, McCarthy said.

“The point is we want these people going to the game,” McCarthy said. “So you can’t turn around and sell them to a scalper.”

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ricky Vohra's class in market design at Penn

Ricky Vohra is teaching market design at Penn, and describes it on his blog: Graduate Market Design Class (2nd Try)

Here's the reading list

Topics & Papers
1. IPOs
Jaganathan and Sherman: Why do IPO Auctions Fail
Ritter: Equilibrium in the IPO market
Background Reading (to be read by all)
Ljungqvist: IPO Underpricing: A Survey
Ritter and Welch: A review of IPO activity, pricing and allocations

2. Health Care & Insurance Markets
Cochran, J: Time Consistent Health Insurance, JPE 1995.
Cochran, J. : After the ACA: Freeing the market for health care
Fang & Gazzara: Dynamic Inefficiencies in an Employment-Based Health Insurance System: Theory and Evidence
Handel, Hendel and Whinston: Equilibria in Health Exchanges: Adverse Selection vs. Reclassification Risk
Levine, Kremer and Albright: Making Markets for Vaccines
Kremer: Creating Markets for New Vaccines Part 1: rationale
Kremer: Creating Markets for New Vaccines Part 2: design issues 
Background Reading (to be read by all)
Rothschild, M. & J. Stiglitz: Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets, QJE 1976.
Fang, H: Insurance Markets in China
3. Market for Cybersecurity Insurance
Kesan, Majuca & Yurcik: Cyberinsurance as a market based solution to the problem of cybersecurity

4. Affirmative Action
Hickman: Effort, Race Gaps and Affirmative Action: A Game Theoretic Analsyis of College Admissions
Chung: Affirmative Action as an Implementation Problem
Fryer and Loury: Valuing Identity: The simple economics of Affirmative action policies
Background Reading (to be read by all)
Fang and Moro: Theories of Statistical Discrimination and Affirmative Action: a survey

5. Assigning Counsel
Friedman & Schulhofer: Rethinking Indigent Defense: Promoting Effective Representation Through Consumer Sovereignty and Freedom of Choice for All Criminal Defendants

6. The Role of Politics
Acemoglu: Why not a political Coase theorem?
Acemoglu: Modeling Inefficient Institutions

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cash for Kidneys: The Case for a Market for Organs. Becker and Elias in the WSJ

Gary Becker and Julio Elias have a reprise of their 2007 Journal of Economic Perspectives paper in this weekend's Wall Street Journal, in a cogent column called Cash for Kidneys: The Case for a Market for Organs.

Their 2007 JEP paper was called  Introducing Incentives in the Market for Live and Cadaveric Organ Donations (slightly more direct link here).

Between then and now the number of people on the waiting list for kidneys has gone up. Their 2007 article has these sentences: "Almost 17,000 persons were waiting for a kidney transplant in 1990. But this number grew rapidly, so that about 65,000 persons were on this waiting list by the beginning of 2006."

This weekend's WSJ column starts with the sentence "In 2012, 95,000 American men, women and children were on the waiting list for new kidneys, the most commonly transplanted organ."

So, the arguments that they repeat have gotten stronger over time: the shortage of organs is costly in every sense, and could likely be relieved by allowing kidneys to be bought and sold by live donors, and allowing the purchase of organs from deceased potential donors, i.e. by repealing the part of the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act that makes such sales a felony in the United States. (Similar laws exist in most of the developed world: the only country that seems to have an explicitly legal market for kidneys is Iran, although many black and grey markets exist.)

So, why hasn't this argument made any headway, either in the U.S. or overseas? Is patient repetition of the argument the best way to make the case? I don't know the answers, but I think that the repugnance of organ sales is a subject worth studying, not just for science but also for those who might like to influence policy.

In the same issue of the JEP as Becker and Elias (2007) was my article Repugnance as a Constraint on Markets (more direct link here), which sought to understand not just the repugnance to kidney sales, but to many economic transactions, in different places and times, e.g. to charging interest on loans, or having markets for slaves or indentured servants. I noted that kidney exchange doesn't arouse the repugnance that sales do. I've since blogged about a lot of different repugnant transactions including compensation for donors (as of this writing my most recent post on transactions that some regard with repugnance is headlined Womb transplants in Sweden (where surrogacy is illegal)...)

Note that the prohibition on organ sales is not some law that remains on the books merely through inattention. This is illustrated by the recent events surrounding the tug of war over whether it might be legal to compensate (even) bone marrow donors. Briefly, the ninth circuit court of appeals issued a ruling that said that in some circumstances bone marrow donors could be compensated, but then the Department of Health and Human Services proposed regulations that would keep the ban in place.   So the opposition to organ sales--even to compensating bone marrow donors--is alive and well.

But things don't go all in one direction. Bob Slonim reminds me that while we rely on unpaid donation of whole blood in the United States, most of our supply of blood plasma comes from paid donors.

I've participated in some efforts to understand better the repugnance to compensating organ donors, e.g. here's a survey with Steve Leider about who disapproves of kidney sales, and some correlates of such disapproval:
Leider, Stephen and Alvin E. Roth, ''Kidneys for sale: Who disapproves, and why? American Journal of Transplantation  10 (May), 2010, 1221-1227.

More recently, Muriel Niederle and I conducted a different sort of survey, which assessed the relative willingness of Americans to contemplate monetary rewards for the heroism associated with kidney donation:
"Niederle, Muriel and Alvin E. Roth, “Philanthropically Funded Heroism Awards for Kidney Donors?” forthcoming in Law & Contemporary Problems, 77:3, 2014.

Judd Kessler and I have a paper forthcoming in the American Economic Review papers and proceedings (May 2014) called "Getting More Organs for Transplantation," in which we summarize the issue this way:

"Kidney sales are often the leading example of a repugnant transaction cited by those who would put stricter limits on markets in general (e.g. Sandel 2012, 2013), because of their sense that such sales arouse widespread opposition. A representative sample survey of Americans conducted by Leider and Roth (2010) suggests that disapproval of kidney sales correlates with other socially conservative attitudes, but that it does not rise to the level of disapproval of other repugnant transactions such as prostitution. In addition, there is evidence that the manner of the payment to an organ donor may mitigate some of the repugnance concerns. Niederle and Roth (forthcoming 2014) find that payments to non-directed kidney donors are deemed more acceptable when they arise as a reward for heroism and public service than when they are viewed as a payment for kidneys."

That paper closes with this thought on the presently available options: 
"While these potential donors could save thousands of additional lives, at current rates of medical need, these donors alone would not be able to supply all the demand. Consequently, we must continue working on numerous fronts to solve this growing problem. "

In summary, the issue of whether and how organ donors might be compensated is an important policy issue that also touches on an important and still poorly understood social science phenomenon. Repetition of the basic arguments may move the discussion forward as the background facts become more severe, and it's great to see the issue addressed in such a public forum as the WSJ. But it may also be that repetition of arguments is not enough. To make progress in the face of opposition, it seems likely to be useful to understand better the nature of the opposition.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

School choice in Newark

Innovative Enrollment Initiative Gives Students Real Choice

"If we're serious about reforming public education in our nation, we have to ensure all our kids have access to high-quality schools. Newark, New Jersey, is launching an innovative new universal enrollment program this week aimed at achieving that goal as well as promoting equity and transparency, but federal regulations may stand in the way of full implementation. The federal government needs to loosen the reins and let cities and school districts do what's best for their students.

"Newark's universal enrollment program, part of the district superintendent's One Newark initiative, is representative of a promising trend emerging in a handful of school districts across the United States. Under universal enrollment, parents will simply fill out a single application to rank their top public district or charter school choices. This streamlined process will ease the burden for parents who will no longer need to go door to door to find out the options, timelines and enrollment requirements of their local schools.

"The program, which went live Jan. 6, is a groundbreaking collaboration between the Newark public school district and the city's robust charter school sector. As of now, more than three quarters -- 16 of the city's 21 public charter schools -- are on board to participate. "

Friday, January 17, 2014

Barcelona experimental economics summer school

Experiments and macroeconomics at Barcelona, this just in:

Announcing the 2014 Barcelona LeeX Experimental Economics Summer School in Macroeconomics
Macroeconomic theories have traditionally been tested using non-experimental "field" data. However, modern, micro-founded macroeconomic models can also be tested in the laboratory, and researchers have begun to pursue such experimental testing and evaluation. This June, graduate students specializing in macroeconomics or experimental economics, as well as junior faculty members and researchers of macroeconomic are invited to attend the Barcelona LeeX summer school devoted to experimental macroeconomics research. This intensive 5 day summer school will be held from June 11 to 17, 2014 at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain.  Students will be taught experimental methods and exposed to a number of macroeconomic applications that have been tested experimentally. Students will be asked to participate in experiments and to develop their own experimental macroeconomic projects. Faculty will assist with and critique these projects.
Details about the summer school including how to apply are provided on the summer school website
This year we invite summer school students to present their ongoing research during the summer school. Such presentations may take the form of presentations during the summer school or a poster session during the associated conference workshop, depending on the number of students seeking to present their work. Such presentations will be at the discretion of the summer school organizers.
Students can submit research proposals as part of their summer school application, though this is not a requirement for participation in the summer school.  Indeed, one purpose of the summer school is to think of macroeconomic topics and models that can be implemented in the laboratory in a way that advances our knowledge of behavior.
Summer school students are also invited to attend the 2 day 5th LeeX International Workshop co-organized with Barcelona GSE Summer Forum on Theoretical and Experimental Macroeconomics  from June 9-10, 2014 that will also take place at UPF immediately prior to the summer school.
The deadline for summer school applications is Monday, April 21 2014.  
Summer school in experimental macroeconomics faculty:
Summer school organizers:
  • John Duffy (University of Pittsburgh)
  • Frank Heinemann (Technische Universit├Ąt Berlin)
  • Rosemarie Nagel (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

Please forward this message to any interested parties.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Organ donor registration in Israel

Judd Kessler and I just got this email from Jacob Lavee (about whom I've written before), with good news that he kindly gave me permission to post:

Dear Al and Judd,

Just a short note to let you know that the Israeli Minister of Health has adopted this week my recommendation to establish by law the modified mandated choice model based upon your work, whereby the issuing or renewal of an ID, passport or driving license will be conditional upon answering the question of becoming a registered donor to which only a positive answer will be given as an option or else the “Continue” button will be selected. It seems that, contrary to my previous worries, the entire registration for these documents is currently being done online and therefore there should be no technical issues to implement this model.

Thank you guys for providing the proof of concept which I cited to the ministerial committee.

This model will be added upon the prioritization model, which is already implemented by law.


The work Jay is referring to is a paper, currently out for review at a journal that doesn't like prepublication on the web, "Don’t Take ‘No’ For An Answer: An experiment with actual organ donor registrations," which finds, in a study of the online MA state organ donor registry, that requiring potential donors to choose either "yes" or "no" when asked if they wish to be on the donor registry does not increase registrations, and seems likely to reduce the rate of donations by next of kin when the deceased is unregistered.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Womb transplants in Sweden (where surrogacy is illegal)

The NY Times has the story: Swedish Doctors Transplant Wombs Into 9 Women

 "STOCKHOLM — Nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplanted wombs donated from relatives in an experimental procedure that has raised some ethical concerns. The women will soon try to become pregnant with their new wombs, the doctor in charge of the pioneering project has revealed.

"The women were born without a uterus or had it removed because of cervical cancer. Most are in their 30s and are part of the first major experiment to test whether it's possible to transplant wombs into women so they can give birth to their own children.

"In many European countries, including Sweden, using a surrogate to carry a pregnancy isn't allowed.
"Some experts have raised concerns about whether it's ethical to use live donors for an experimental procedure that doesn't save lives. But John Harris, a bioethics expert at the University of Manchester, didn't see a problem with that as long as donors are fully informed. He said donating kidneys isn't necessarily life-saving, yet is widely promoted.

"Dialysis is available, but we have come to accept and to even encourage people to take risks to donate a kidney," he said.

"Brannstrom said the nine womb recipients are doing well. Many already had their periods six weeks after the transplants, an early sign that the wombs are healthy and functioning.
"None of the women who donated or received wombs has been identified. The transplants began in September 2012 and the donors include mothers and other relatives of the recipients.
"The transplant operations did not connect the women's uteruses to their fallopian tubes, so they are unable to get pregnant naturally. But all who received a womb have their own ovaries and can make eggs. Before the operation, they had some removed to create embryos through in-vitro fertilization. The embryos were then frozen and doctors plan to transfer them into the new wombs, allowing the women to carry their own biological children.
""If this had been possible when I was younger, no doubt I would have been interested," she said. Gimre, who has two foster children, said the only option for women like her to have biological children is via surrogacy, which is illegal in many European countries, including Norway and Sweden.
"The technique used in Sweden, using live donors, is somewhat controversial. In Britain, doctors are also planning to perform uterus transplants, but will only use wombs from dying or dead people. That was also the case in Turkey. Last year, Turkish doctors announced their patient got pregnant but the pregnancy failed after two months.

"Mats has done something amazing and we understand completely why he has taken this route, but we are wary of that approach," said Dr. Richard Smith, head of the U.K. charity Womb Transplant UK, which is trying to raise 500,000 pounds ($823,000) to carry out five operations in Britain.

"He said removing a womb for donation is like a radical hysterectomy but it requires taking a bigger chunk of the surrounding blood vessels to ensure adequate blood flow, raising the risk of complications for the donor. Smith said British officials don't consider it ethical to let donors take such chances for an operation that isn't considered life-saving.
"Doctors in Saudi Arabia performed the first womb transplant in 2000, using a live donor, but it had to be removed after three months because of a blood clot."