Monday, August 31, 2015

Scott Kominer's market design course at Harvard

Market design is available again at Harvard, taught this year by Scott Kominers.

You can find his syllabus/reading list here.

And below is the course announcement:

Economics 2099 -- Harvard University -- Fall 2015 
This course explores the theory and practice of market design. Key topics include auctions, labor market matching, school choice programs, online markets, organ exchange systems, financial market design, and matching with contracts. The first half of the course will introduce market design and its technology; subsequent weeks will discuss recent papers alongside their classical antecedents.

Information on Logistics, Requirements, and Readings:
See the course syllabus (posted July 27, 2015).

Assignment Deadlines:
A short abstract of the research proposal will be due on October 6, 2015, and a short summary will be due on November 10, 2015. The final proposal will be due on December 10, 2015 (the last day of Reading Period).

September 8, 2015Introduction/Overview
September 15, 2015The Market Designer's Toolbox
September 22, 2015School ChoiceNikhil Agarwal, Parag Pathak
September 29, 2015Generalized Matching
October 13, 2015Auction Theory
October 20, 2015Internet MarketsBen Edelman, Andrey Fradkin
October 27, 2015Auctions in Practice
November 3, 2015Organ AllocationCarmen Wang
November 10, 2015Dynamic AllocationNeil Thakral, Utku Ünver
November 17, 2015Markets for Intellectual Property
November 24, 2015New HorizonsMike Luca, David Parkes, Ben Roth
December 1, 2015Student Talks/Course Wrap
Internal Harvard Website:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A new journal for market design

Peter Biro brings to my attention the announcement of a new journal that seems to be focused at least partly on market design.  The journal's website and some of the editors (although not the ones I know) are associated with the University of York's Centre for Mechanism and Institution Design, which lists among its interests many areas in which elegant theory has led to practical design. I don't know more about the journal yet, and not all of the links work, but the composition of the Editorial Board suggests that it may have a chance of becoming an important journal, particularly if they have a plan for attracting good papers...

Here's the announcement...
Design Mechanisms and Institutions that Improve Efficiency, Equality, Prosperity, Stability and Sustainability in Society.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Economics is useful, diverse and fun: new video from the American Economics Association

Do you advise students on careers? The AEA has produced a video for prospective economists. The video is here and here. Below is the description:
August 28, 2015

The American Economics Association has launched an informational video entitled "A career in Economics . . . it's much more than you think." The 9-minute film is aimed at prospective or first-year students who may be investigating economics as a career option but are unclear how broadly a degree in economics can be applied.

The film makes effort to dispel entrenched misconceptions about who economists are and what they do. Economics can be broadly defined as the study of human behaviors aimed at finding solutions to help improve peoples' lives. Viewers are reminded that a degree in economics doesn't have to be about finance, banking, business, or government, . . . it can be useful to all individuals and can lead to many interesting and fulfilling career choices.

The video features four individuals offering insights on how economics can be a tool for solving very human problems and they provide some interesting perspectives on how they chose economics as a career path. The film also helps raise awareness about the need for more diverse voices in the field of economics.
  • Marcella Alsan, a physician of infectious disease, discusses why she needed to pursue a degree in economics to improve the lives of her patients.
  • Randall Lewis, a research scientist at Google, uses economics and "big data" as tools to improve the functioning of markets.
  • Britni Wilcher, a PhD student of economics, offers insight on some misconceptions about economists and factors influencing her career path decision.
  • Peter Henry, dean at the NYU Stern School of Business, points to the true nature of economics and the importance of diverse voices informing the field.

All economics departments and placement offices are invited to share this video with their students. Available free at the AEA website and on Vimeo

Friday, August 28, 2015

Law and market design at Duke

It looks like Kim Krawiec et al. are up to something interesting at Duke.

Duke Law Project on Law and Markets focuses on strengths and limits of markets

August 10, 2015Duke Law News
Duke Law faculty and students are undertaking a yearlong study of topics at the intersection of law and markets to investigate foundational questions about how law can address market inequalities, how market forces might be effective in areas where laws are ineffective, and the philosophical underpinnings of market-driven and regulatory approaches to various issues.
The Duke Law Project on Law and Markets, led by Professors Kimberly Krawiec and Joseph Blocher, includes faculty workshops, a colloquium for faculty and seminar students, a speaker series, and a symposium that will result in a volume of relevant scholarship in the journal Law and Contemporary Problems.
“Our goal is to bring the community together around a broad topic and to really think hard about it,” said Krawiec, the Kathrine Robinson Everett Professor of Law. “Joseph and I were excited about law and markets because of work that the two of us had been doing separately about the role of markets as they relate to law.”
Krawiec, a scholar of corporate law, securities, and derivatives, also studies non-traditional and taboo markets, such as those for babies — via sperm and egg donation, surrogacy, and adoption — and for transplant-ready human organs. In some of his recent works Blocher, a scholar of constitutional and property law, has contemplated interstate and sovereign border markets as a possible solution to a range of economic and political problems.
About 30 faculty members took part in the project’s first event on June 1, a discussion of a controversial 1970 article on blood donation, which argued that a system based on altruism is superior to a market-based system regulated by self-interest. “We had a very lively, two-hour discussion,” said Blocher. “It was a great kick-off.”
Other summer workshops have included a discussion of markets and environmental regulation led byJonathan Wiener, the William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professor of Law and Professor of Environmental Policy and Professor of Public Policy, and one on the relationship between economic development and other freedoms led by Barak Richman, the Edgar P. and Elizabeth C. Bartlett Professor of Law and Professor of Business Administration.
The wide range of topics is, in many ways, the point of the overall inquiry, Krawiec said.
“It’s related to a broader notion of market design, which is popular with economists,” she said. “Lawyers have a role to play, because many of the objections to having markets operate in certain areas are things that can be dealt with by law.” The law, for example, can address inequalities by providing subsidies, she said.
“Markets involve more than money changing hands. A market is a mechanism for allocating scarce resources, and the law has a lot to say about how that should operate, given the various public policy goals we have.” That’s true, she said, of organ donation, “which is not a literal market, because it’s illegal to trade in organs.”
The Project on Law and Markets was inspired by the Duke Project on Custom and Law that occurred over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year and resulted in a symposium issue of the Duke Law Journalwith articles on such topics as customs in the art market, norms in kidney exchange programs, and how the Internal Revenue Service draws on custom to under-enforce portions of the tax code. The initiative sparked a number of scholarly collaborations and Blocher and Krawiec hope that success will be replicated in the current project.
“We’re hoping to connect people who might not otherwise be connected in dealing with problems of law, problems of scarcity, problems of inequality,” said Blocher. “Obviously the work that Jennifer Jenkins andJames Boyle do regarding the public domain and what goes into and what stays out of the market is hugely important and interesting, but other scholars might not connect it to their work. It might just be seen as a sort of walled-off, intellectual property issue.” Boyle, the William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law, is a leading scholar of intellectual property and the founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, which Jenkins ’97 directs. 
The two-credit Law and Markets Colloquium will engage students in discussion of assigned readings and workshop presentations on law and markets. Along with the faculty workshops and symposium, it is likely to expose a range of assumptions and differences of opinion about the role of law and the role of markets, said Blocher. “People are going to have very different, maybe irreducible, normative visions about what’s good and proper for the use of money or other market incentives. But like any question of law, markets, or justice, we don’t anticipate a single answer.”
“It’s more about unearthing the questions we should be thinking about,” said Krawiec.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Assisted dying: the debate in England

The Telegraph has the latest:
‘There is nothing sacred about suffering’, insist faith leaders in assisted dying call--Bishops, priests and leading Rabbis break ranks with mainstream religious case opposition to assisted dying

"Religious teachings that elevate suffering and pain as something “sacred” should not be used to prevent terminally ill people taking their own lives, leading Christian and Jewish clerics have insisted.

"An alliance of bishops, priests and rabbis have broken ranks with the religious establishment to voice support for plans to change the law to allow a form of assisted suicide in the UK for the first time.

"In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, they argue that far from being a sin, helping terminally ill people to commit suicide should be viewed simply as enabling them to “gracefully hand back” their lives to God.

"There is, they insist “nothing sacred” about suffering in itself and no one should be “obliged to endure it”, they insist.

"Signatories of the letter, in support of a bill to be debated by MPs next month, include Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who stunned the Church of England last year when he announced that he had changed his mind on the issue.
"MPs are due to debate an Assisted Dying Bill tabled by the Labour backbencher Rob Marris next month.

"It would allow people thought to have no more than six months to live and a “settled intention” to end their life to be allowed be given a lethal dose of drugs on the authority of two doctors.

While most of the major religious groups in the UK have voiced opposition, some polls suggest a majority of people who identify themselves with a faith are in favour of relaxing the law."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Some histories of organ transplantation

I can't vouch for any of these...most are un-refereed internet pages...some starting with events reported from quite long ago, regarding skin and bones, for example.

From Timeline of Historical Events Significant Milestones in Organ Donation and Transplantation

Here's a journal article, whose history begins with kidneys...
Organ transplantation: historical perspective and current practice
C. J. E. Watson1,* and J. H. Dark, 
Br. J. Anaesth. (2012) 108 (suppl 1): i29-i42.
doi: 10.1093/bja/aer384 
"A brief history of transplantation
Kidney transplantation
Since Jaboulay and Carrel developed the techniques
required to perform vascular anastomoses at the turn of
the last century, there has been a desire to treat organ
failure by transplantation. Jaboulay was the first to
attempt this in 1906, treating two patients with renal
failure by transplanting a goat kidney into one and a pig
kidney into the other; in both cases, he joined the renal
vessels to the brachial vessels.1 Both transplants failed
and both patients died. At that time, there was no alternative
to death if renal failure developed, and it would be
another 38 yr before the first haemodialysis machine was
invented. The first use of a human kidney for transplantation
followed in 1936 when Yu Yu Voronoy, a Ukrainian
surgeon working in Kiev, performed the first in a series of
six transplants to treat patients dying from acute renal
failure secondary to mercury poisoning, ingested by its
victims in an attempt to commit suicide. All the transplants
failed, in large part because of a failure to appreciate the
deleterious effect of warm ischaemia; the first kidney was
retrieved 6 h after the donor died.
One limitation to transplantation then, as now, was the
lack of suitable donor organs. The initial pioneers had used
animal organs or organs from long deceased humans. In
the 1950s, there came a realization of the need to avoid
excessive ischaemic injury and kidneys from live donors
began to be used. Some of these were from the relatives of
the recipient; others were unrelated patients having a good
kidney removed for other reasons. The surgical technique
also needed refinement; while a kidney based on the thigh
or arm vessels might be technically straightforward, and possibly
adequate for the short-term treatment of acute renal
failure, it was not a realistic solution for the long term.
That solution came from France in 1951 and involved
placing the kidney extraperitoneally in an iliac fossa, where
the external iliac vessels are easy to access and the
bladder is close by for anastomosis to the donor ureter;
this is the technique still used today.
Having overcome the technical issues of vascular anastomosis
and placement of the kidney, there remained the
problem of the immune response. Medawar’s work during
and after the Second World War studying the rejection of
skin grafts had demonstrated the potency of the immune
system.2 At that time, attempts to control the immune
system using irradiation had proved either ineffectual or
lethal. The first successful transplant therefore came about
by avoiding an immune response altogether, which Joseph
Murray’s team achieved by performing a kidney transplant
between identical twins.3 There then followed a series of
identical twin transplants around the world, with the first in
the UK being performed in Edinburgh by Woodruff and
colleagues4 in 1960."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Do participants try to strategize in strategy-proof mechanisms? Alex Rees-Jones surveys medical students about the NRMP.

One of the papers I heard at the recent SITE conference at Stanford was this one, reporting a survey of medical students engaged in the NRMP.

Suboptimal Behavior in Strategy-Proof Mechanisms:Evidence from the Residency Match 
Alex Rees-Jones
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
August 10, 2015

Abstract: Strategy-proof mechanisms eliminate the possibility for gain from strategic misrepresentation of preferences. If market participants respond optimally, these mechanisms permit the observation of true preferences and avoid the implicit punishment of market participants who do not try to “game the system.” Using new data from a flagship application of the matching literature—the medical residency match—I study if these potential benefits are fully realized. I present evidence that some students pursue futile attempts at strategic misrepresentation, and examine the causes and correlates of this behavior. These results inform the assessment of the costs and benefits of strategy-proof mechanisms, and demonstrate broad challenges in mechanism design.

From a survey of graduating medical students: "I find that 17% of students self-assess their preference reporting strategy to be nontruthful, with 5% directly attributing this nontruthful behavior to strategic considerations."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Many dialysis patients are not referred to transplant centers in their first years on dialysis (incentives matter...)

Too Few Kidney Dialysis Patients Referred for Organ Transplant, Study Finds
Only about one in four in Georgia get further evaluation

"Although a kidney transplant is considered the best hope for people struggling with end-stage renal disease, a new study conducted in Georgia found three-quarters of these patients weren't even evaluated for a possible transplant within their first year of dialysis.

That finding flies in the face of U.S. regulations that require all dialysis centers to fully inform these patients about all available treatment options. Those options include kidney transplantation, a typically less expensive intervention than ongoing dialysis and one that also promises greater longevity and a better quality of life, the researchers noted.

What's more, the team found a huge variation in statewide referral rates. Some dialysis centers failed to send even a single first-year patient for a transplant consultation, while others referred 75 percent of their new patients."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is unified enrollment school choice coming to Indianapolis?

"Caitlin Hannon gave up her job and her Indianapolis Public School Board seat for an idea that, while a pretty good bet to give her a future role in education in the city, is far from a slam dunk to succeed.
She’s taken the leap from suggesting as unified enrollment system as a board member to starting one herself. Her goal goes beyond just matching families with the best schools for their children."

Here's the rest of the story, by Scott Elliott at Chalkbeat...

Hannon’s goal: Help parents make choices and give schools useful data
Caitlin Hannon touts a common application system's benefits for families, charter schools and IPS

"Hannon said her goal is to create a single application parents could use to request schools for the 2017-18 school year. Her plan is to have it ready in late 2016 before the district normally begins gearing up its magnet school lottery.
Her vision is a system parents can use to learn about schools, rank them by preference and request children be assigned to their favorites.
A unified enrollment system is not a unique idea. New Orleans is a well known example among a handful of cities that have tried it."

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Storytellers prefer heroes, although research and development is done by teams...

I've spent some time helping my publisher(s) sell my book Who Gets What and Why since it came out in early June, so I have a renewed appreciation of how journalism works.

Stories are important. The easiest stories have heroes, and since books have authors, authors are even more likely to be painted as heroes in news stories about their book than in other kinds of stories. That's not crazy: authors are in many ways the heroes of the story of their book, even if the story in the book involves lots of people.

And off course, stories about science are more often stories about teams than about heroes.

Mentions of collaborators are relentlessly edited out of short pieces. That's one reason I liked writing a book (although, as it turns out, even books have editors who fight against "excessive detail"). But I've been very fortunate in my collaborators, and I was able to tell some of their stories.

If you haven't been keeping up, here are some of the stories about Who Gets What and Why that I've blogged about since the book came out: 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Some pictures from the Econometric Society World Congress in Montreal

There were many market design talks in Montreal this week: see if you can identify these well known market designers..

Organ donation in Qatar

Here's a story from Al Jazeera:
Finding organ donors among Qatar's Muslim community
The Qatari government offers a series of incentives to those who donate their organs.

"In late 2012, the head of HMC's Organ Transplant Committee, Dr. Yousuf al-Masalamani, told the local Al Arab newspaper that expatriates made up 99 percent of people on Qatar's donor registry.

A report by Doha News last year said that of 20,000 new donor registrants that summer, less than 1,000 were Arab, including Qatari nationals.

Yosri said that superstitions and misunderstandings about religious opinions on the matter were behind low sign-up rates among those of Arab origin or Muslim faith.

"Some people believe that by signing up to give their organs after death, they are tempting fate and they will die … That's silly, obviously nobody is going to die before their time," Yosri told Al Jazeera, adding many were unaware of religious edicts encouraging the practise.

"I give most Muslims, who are unsure, a leaflet containing a fatwa by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and the next day they've made their mind up and they're telling me they want to donate," Yosri said, referring to a religious decree by the Qatar-based Egyptian religious scholar, widely followed in Muslim-majority countries.
"Beyond religious arguments, the Qatari government offers a series of incentives for those who donate their organs. Living donors, who give parts of their liver or a kidney, benefit from comprehensive medical insurance for life, discounted plane tickets and compensation for loss of income during medical procedures.

"Families of deceased donors are given social care and support, as well as financial help to cover the cost of transferring the body to their home country.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A privacy-preserving market design intervention to avoid Tay Sachs disease

Scott Kominers draws my attention to a 1987 news note in JAMA, with a privacy-sensitive market design for keeping people's sensitive genetic information private.

Tay Sachs disease is a lethal recessive-gene disease: when two carriers of the relatively rare gene have a child, they risk having a child who will be born with the disease. Genetic screening offers a chance to alert potential marriage partners if they both carry the gene. But in some of the Jewish communities in which the gene is relatively more common, there was a reluctance to be tested, for fear of being stigmatized as a carrier of the disease. An organization called Dor Yeshorim was formed to offer the following service:

 "All those taking the blood test would be assigned a number, and their test results filed at the screening center by number alone; names would not be recorded. Nor would those being tested be informed of the results, thus eliminating the anxiety of stigmatization. When a match was proposed, the matchmaker would call the screening center, revealing only the prospective couple's numbers. The matchmaker would then be informed whether the proposed match would involve two Tay-Sachs carriers.

"If the match were not to involve two carriers, marriage plans could proceed. If both parties were identified as carriers, the matchmaker would be told only that the two families should contact the center to verify the couple's numbers. The families would then be informed that both of the children were carriers and referred to counseling. Thus, carriers would learn their status only if they were to be matched with other carriers. Then both families could report that the match had failed to come about for other reasons and could look for new matches.

 by Beverly Merz, "Matchmaking Scheme Solves Tay-Sachs Problem," JAMA Nov 20, 1987, 2636-7 (Medical News and Perspectives)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Hal and Al Show: Hal Varian interviews me about "Who Gets What — and Why," at Google (video)

I got to chat with Hal Varian at Google last week (Aug 10), about my book, Who Gets What and Why, and how computer science and economics come together in market design. Here's the video (55 minutes).

And here's a photo, taken by Yair Sakols

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A look back at school choice in New Orleans

Here's an article discussing IIPSC's work in New Orleans, in the Fall issue of Education Next:

The New Orleans OneAppCentralized enrollment matches students and schools of choice, By Douglas N. Harris, Jon Valant and Betheny Gross

"In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans families could choose from an assortment of charter, magnet, and traditional public schools. The city initially took a decentralized approach to choice, letting families submit an application to each school individually and allowing schools to manage their own enrollment processes. This approach proved burdensome for parents, who had to navigate multiple application deadlines, forms, and requirements. Moreover, the system lacked a mechanism for efficiently matching students to schools and ensuring fair and transparent enrollment practices. The city has since upped the ante with an unprecedented degree of school choice and a highly sophisticated, centralized approach to school assignment.

"Today, New Orleans families can apply to 89 percent of the city’s public schools by ranking their preferred schools on a single application known as the OneApp (see Figure 1). The city no longer assigns a default school based on students’ home addresses. Instead, a computer algorithm matches students to schools based on families’ ranked requests, schools’ admission priorities, and seat availability. Experience with the OneApp in New Orleans reveals both the significant promise of centralized enrollment and the complications in designing a system that is technically sound but clear to the public, and fair to families but acceptable to schools. The OneApp continues to evolve as its administrators learn more about school-choosing families and school-choosing families learn more about the OneApp. The approach remains novel, and some New Orleanians have misunderstood or distrusted the choice process. The system’s long-term success will require both continued learning and growth in the number of schools families perceive to be high-quality options."

see also Opening Doors: OneApp Improves Enrollment Process but Shows Need for More Good Schools

Monday, August 17, 2015

It can be hard for parents to assemble information about schools

Here's a critique of the NYC high school choice system, from a former Dept of Ed administrator who now runs a public- and private-school admissions consulting firm that helps parents navigate the system. He calls for better advising...

Why high school admissions actually doesn’t work for many city students — and how it could
by Maurice Frumkin on August 7, 2015

"It was my pleasure to read Professor Alvin Roth’s recent piece on why New York City’s high school admissions process now works most of the time. And as the city’s former deputy director of high school enrollment and a current admissions consultant who has helped thousands of families navigate the process, I see his observations play out every day.
Given how massive the New York City process is, the mechanism of assigning students to schools after families have made their choices does, indeed, work well. But the process by which those choices are made remains complicated, and very much depends on expertise or the ability to spend an excessive amount of time understanding how it works. Many students still go without either.
"Part of my role at the DOE was to train middle school counselors, whose workloads, savvy, and degree to which their students’ parents were engaged in the process varied widely. Over time, many counselors have developed into admissions experts who do an outstanding job informing their families. A Manhattan school counselor entering her third year recently told me, though, that it was a challenge for her to become familiar with schools beyond the “brand name” schools that everyone talks about.
"It’s a problem Roth acknowledges. “Although it’s great to have a marketplace that gives you an abundance of opportunities, these may be illusory if you can’t evaluate them, and they can cause the market to lose much of its usefulness,” he writes.
"I speak with families every day who are convinced that although there are 5,000 applicants to a selective program with 100 seats, an offer is inevitable because their child meets the published selection criteria. They will, therefore, list fewer choices – and often only choices that represent the most sought-after, screened programs."
I'm reminded of this earlier post, and the advice I gave to "Jimmy," who had suffered from just this mistake...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Richmond Fed on market design

 In the magazine of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, in an article called
Economists and the Real World Tim Sablik, interviews Susan Athey and writes about market design.

"Many academic economists have begun collaborating more actively with private firms and public institutions. This practice has become common in the discipline of market design, for example. Robert Wilson of Stanford University helped design auctions for the oil, communications, and power industries. Along with his former student Paul Milgrom of Stanford University and with Preston McAfee, who is now the chief economist at Microsoft, Wilson received the 2014 Golden Goose Award for designing the first spectrum auctions used by the Federal Communications Commission in 1994. Alvin Roth of Stanford University and co-winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in economics collaborated with public schools in New York City and Boston to design algorithms to improve student placement in preferred schools and with doctors to arrange kidney transplant exchanges between pairs of donors and recipients.

"Market design is a team sport," Roth said in his Nobel acceptance speech. "And it is a team sport in which it is hard to tell who are theorists or practitioners because it blurs those lines."

"Susan Athey of Stanford University says that it is "not an accident" that economists studying market design and industrial organization have collaborated heavily with real-world firms and institutions. "If you're trying to solve a real problem, you need to understand the full set of constraints to propose the best solution," she says. Her role as a consul­tant for Microsoft has influenced her research on Internet markets, such as online advertising.
"I got the impression that many of my peers thought I was selling out," she says. "They couldn't really understand why I was so confident my work with Microsoft was going to come back and improve my research."

"Today, many of the leading empirical studies rely on large datasets collected by firms and government agencies. As a result, more economists seem willing to risk some criticism to obtain access to these data. In a 2014 article in Science magazine, Liran Einav and Jonathan Levin of Stanford University reported that 46 percent of papers published in the American Economic Review in 2014 relied on private or non-public administrative datasets, compared with just 8 percent in 2006.

"I think the profession is starting to normalize the idea of working with a firm to get access to data," says Athey. "Increasingly, people are recognizing that without this private sector data, we're just not going to be able to get a complete picture of trends which could end up being very important to the economy."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New papers on matching by Yeon-Koo Che and Olivier Tercieux (large markets and top trading cycles)

In the Cowles Foundation working paper series:

YEON-KOO CHE, Columbia University
Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques (PSE)
We study efficient and stable mechanisms in matching markets when the number of agents is large and individuals’ preferences and priorities are drawn randomly. When agents’ preferences are uncorrelated, then both efficiency and stability can be achieved in an asymptotic sense via standard mechanisms such as deferred acceptance and top trading cycles. When agents’ preferences are correlated over objects, however, these mechanisms are either inefficient or unstable even in an asymptotic sense. We propose a variant of deferred acceptance that is asymptotically efficient, asymptotically stable and asymptotically incentive compatible. This new mechanism performs well in a counterfactual calibration based on New York City school choice data.

YEON-KOO CHE, Columbia University
Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques (PSE)
We study top trading cycles in a two-sided matching environment (Abdulkadiroglu and Sonmez (2003)) under the assumption that individuals’ preferences and objects’ priorities are drawn iid uniformly. The distributions of agents’ preferences and objects’ priorities remaining after a given round of TTC depend nontrivially on the exact history of the algorithm up to that round (and so need not be uniform iid). Despite the nontrivial history-dependence of evolving economies, we show that the number of individuals/objects assigned at each round follows a simple Markov chain and we explicitly derive the transition probabilities.

YEON-KOO CHE, Columbia University
Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques (PSE)

We study Pareto efficient mechanisms in matching markets when the number of agents is large and individual preferences are randomly drawn from a class of distributions, allowing for both common and idiosyncratic shocks. We show that, as the market grows large, all Pareto efficient mechanisms -- including top trading cycles, serial dictatorship, and their randomized variants -- are uniformly asymptotically payoff equivalent “up to the renaming of agents,” yielding the utilitarian upper bound in the limit. This result implies that, when the conditions of our model are met, policy makers need not discriminate among Pareto efficient mechanisms based on the aggregate payoff distribution of participants. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Repugnant markets watch: ISIS institutionalizes a market for sex slaves (NY Times)

The NY Times has a long article on sex slavery in the Islamic State, by Rukmini Callimachi, including some detail about the market's rules and institutional features:

ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape--Claiming the Quran’s support, the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool.

"The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution.
"The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.
"A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month.
"The Islamic State’s formal introduction of systematic sexual slavery dates to Aug. 3, 2014, when its fighters invaded the villages on the southern flank of Mount Sinjar, a craggy massif of dun-colored rock in northern Iraq.
"Their captors appeared to have a system in place, replete with its own methodology of inventorying the women, as well as their own lexicon. Women and girls were referred to as “Sabaya,” followed by their name. Some were bought by wholesalers, who photographed and gave them numbers, to advertise them to potential buyers.

"Osman Hassan Ali, a Yazidi businessman who has successfully smuggled out numerous Yazidi women, said he posed as a buyer in order to be sent the photographs. He shared a dozen images, each one showing a Yazidi woman sitting in a bare room on a couch, facing the camera with a blank, unsmiling expression. On the edge of the photograph is written in Arabic, “Sabaya No. 1,” “Sabaya No. 2,” and so on.
"The use of sex slavery by the Islamic State initially surprised even the group’s most ardent supporters, many of whom sparred with journalists online after the first reports of systematic rape."
"In a pamphlet published online in December, the Research and Fatwa Department of the Islamic State detailed best practices, including explaining that slaves belong to the estate of the fighter who bought them and therefore can be willed to another man and disposed of just like any other property after his death.

"Recent escapees describe an intricate bureaucracy surrounding their captivity, with their status as a slave registered in a contract. When their owner would sell them to another buyer, a new contract would be drafted, like transferring a property deed. At the same time, slaves can also be set free, and fighters are promised a heavenly reward for doing so.

"Though rare, this has created one avenue of escape for victims.

"A 25-year-old victim who escaped last month, identified by her first initial, A, described how one day her Libyan master handed her a laminated piece of paper. He explained that he had finished his training as a suicide bomber and was planning to blow himself up, and was therefore setting her free."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Private and public sex, and prostitution

A thoughtful op-ed in the NY Times asks just what is prostitution, and how do we distinguish various kinds of private (as opposed to public) sexual behavior?
When Prostitution Is Nobody’s Business

"But where, exactly, is the border between the private exchange of money or gifts and the impersonal profit-making of the market?

"When sexual partners exchange money and gifts between themselves, we generally see this as a private exchange. However, what do we do if a person has several sexual partners, and regularly receives money and gifts from each of them? Traditionally, a woman who had more than one sex partner from whom she received various forms of material support was likely to have been regarded as a “public woman,” that is, a prostitute, whore or sex worker. Although there has been significant social tolerance historically for men who have and support multiple mistresses, moral disapprobation for women who have multiple lovers has resulted in laws in which women who have several sex partners from whom they accept gifts can face arrest for prostitution.

"Having multiple, casual or ongoing partners from whom one receives monetary support is not the same as running a brothel, or setting up a home business that advertises publicly and accepts customers based on their ability to pay. Yet the line between these kinds of activities may be hard, at times, to make out. For example, should a person who is, say, polyamorous, and has multiple lovers who economically support her, have a right to physical, informational and decisional privacy in regards to her sex life?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Credit cards in Who Gets What and Why--excerpt in Business Insider

Yesterday's Business Insider published a few-paragraph excerpt from Who Gets What and Why:

The 'cash back' you get from your credit card comes from the guy behind you in line

Surrogacy troubles in Thailand

The Guardian has the story, about incomplete contracts and changing laws and social support for surrogacy in Thailand.
Gay parents fight to leave Thailand with surrogate baby daughter

"A same-sex couple is embroiled in a legal battle in Thailand after the surrogate mother who gave birth to their child has refused to allow them to leave the country claiming she was unaware they were gay.

"The surrogate – who is biologically unrelated to the baby – handed over baby Carmen to Gordon Lake, an American, and his Spanish husband, Manuel, in January but later refused to sign documents to allow the infant to get a passport.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Conference housing pirates--the (criminal) market for hotel rooms

Here's a scam I hadn't encountered before.

I will be speaking at a transplant conference in February, and last week my phone rang and someone asked me if I had already made my hotel reservations, and offered to make them for me. I declined, and emailed the conference organizer asking if this was how housing was being arranged. In reply I got the following (slightly redacted) email, addressed to all the speakers....

"Dear ... Faculty,

I have received word from two speakers who advised me that they were contacted by a company called Expo Housing. (They can go by other names too) xxx told me she was contacted by a xxx who left an 866 call back number.

This company ...has NOT been contracted to organize, sell or arrange housing for anyone attending or speaking at the [conference] taking place in February 2016 ....

Please DO NOT BOOK housing with anyone. As a speaker you will receive a travel and housing survey from me or another member of the  staff located in the ... National Office. Please contact me immediately if you are contacted by anyone trying to book your housing. 

Our housing website is under construction at this time but again, as a speaker your housing will be arranged by  staff.

Housing pirates or hijackers are illegal entities who "sell" hotel rooms. These rooms can exist or not exist. Often times your money is lost. Typically these people target large meetings like the American Transplant Congress, but no meeting is safe. Any rooms booked through a pirate are not guaranteed by the group nor will they be included in the [conference] block of rooms. "

Monday, August 10, 2015

Organjet versus regional transplant lists

Forbes discusses the unequal waiting times for deceased donor organs caused by the fact that transplant waiting lists are organized regionally.

Your New Liver Is Only A Learjet Away: First Of Three Parts

"Tayur’s initial business model for OrganJet was quite simple. OrganJet would charge a modest fee to help clients figure out which transplant programs would be likely to shorten their waiting time for an organ. Clients could then sign up to have access to an on-demand flight, in case one of those transplant programs called up with an available donor. Having a flight at ready disposal is critical because many transplant programs require patients to arrive within six hours after an organ becomes available, or they pass the organ on to the next person on the list. The six hour requirement exists because in organ transplantation, donor organs need to be placed into recipients in a timely manner or the organs accumulate irreversible damage. Thus, if a patient on the transplant waiting list in, say, Pittsburgh cannot make it there in time, the transplant team will call another candidate until it finds one that can make use of the organ.
Excited about his chance to address an important social problem, Tayur began working through the details of his business plan, issues such as how many jet companies he would need to contract with and how much money he would need to charge customers for a given flight. “I envisioned OrganJet as an opportunity to make some money and save some lives at the same time,” Tayur told me, words not that different from what honest medical school applicants would tell interviewers about their career choice. The fees he charged customers for these flights would not only cover the charge of paying for the pilots and the fuel, but would include a surcharge that would be the source of OrganJet’s profits.
Tayur was excited about his idea, but the more people he bounced his business plan off, the more pushback he received. In particular, many people told Tayur his idea would only promote greater unfairness in the transplant system, by further disadvantaging people who lacked the financial resources to pay for OrganJet’s services. Tayur thought he could minimize this problem by convincing health insurance companies to pay for the flights, but his critics pointed out that many low-income patients wouldn’t be able to afford such generous insurance.
Tayur realized his new company needed to become two new companies. He had already incorporated OrganJet as a nonprofit entity in May 2011. So in July of 2012 he started a second company, GuardianWings, a tax-exempt nonprofit that raises funds to cover flight costs for low-income patients. His vision was now clear – he would work to overcome geographic inequities in transplantation one patient at a time, giving everyone a fair shake at life-saving treatments even if they were not wealthy CEOs."
"Neither Medicare nor Medicaid currently pays for OrganJet’s services, and it is too early to tell whether private insurers will embrace OrganJet’s prices. Tayur, the CEO of OrganJet, is still negotiating with insurance companies on a case-by-case basis. He is also negotiating with large companies that self-insure their employees, presenting them with results of statistical analyses he has conducted which demonstrate that OrganJet’s services could save them money: “It would get their employees off dialysis sooner, not only improving their quality of life in the process, but also allowing them to return to work sooner, with greater productivity.”"