Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Integration of Immigrants into American Society --report of the National Academies

There's a new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine: The Integration of Immigrants into American Society

"The United States prides itself on being a nation of immigrants, and the country has a long history of successfully absorbing people from across the globe. The integration of immigrants and their children contributes to our economic vitality and our vibrant and ever changing culture. We have offered opportunities to immigrants and their children to better themselves and to be fully incorporated into our society and in exchange immigrants have become Americans—embracing an American identity and citizenship, protecting our country through service in our military, fostering technological innovation, harvesting its crops, and enriching everything from the nation’s cuisine to its universities, music, and art.

Today, the 41 million immigrants in the United States represent 13.1 percent of the U.S. population. The U.S.-born children of immigrants, the second generation, represent another 37.1 million people, or 12 percent of the population. Thus, together the first and second generations account for one out of four members of the U.S. population. Whether they are successfully integrating is therefore a pressing and important question. Are new immigrants and their children being well integrated into American society, within and across generations? Do current policies and practices facilitate their integration? How is American society being transformed by the millions of immigrants who have arrived in recent decades?

To answer these questions, this report summarizes what we know about how immigrants and their descendants are integrating into American society in a range of areas such as education, occupations, health, and language. "

Here's the press release, and here's the report in brief, and you can purchase the whole report here.

Some snippets:
from the press release...
"“Integration is a twofold process that depends on the participation of immigrants and their descendants in major social institutions such as schools and the labor market, as well as their social acceptance by other Americans,” said Mary Waters, M.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology at Harvard University and chair of the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report. “The U.S. has a long history of accepting people from across the globe, and successful integration of immigrants and their children contributes to our economic vitality and a vibrant, ever-changing culture.”  There are 41 million immigrants and 37.1 million U.S.-born children of immigrants in the United States today.  Together, the first and second generations account for one-quarter of the U.S. population."

from the report in brief:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A new college admissions coalition

Inside Higher Ed has the story: (the url is as informative as the headline--

September 27, 2015
Eighty leading colleges and universities are today announcing a plan to reverse a decades-long process by which colleges have -- largely through the Common Application -- made their applications increasingly similar.
Further, the colleges and universities are creating new online portfolios for high school students, designed to have ninth graders begin thinking more deeply about what they are learning or accomplishing in high school, to create new ways for college admissions officers, community organizations and others to coach them, and to emerge in their senior years with a body of work that could be used to help identify appropriate colleges and apply to them. Organizers of the new effort hope it will minimize some of the disadvantages faced by high school students without access to well-staffed guidance offices or private counselors.
While the goals of the effort are ambitious, so are the resources and clout of the colleges today announcing this campaign. These colleges include every Ivy League university, Stanford University and the University of Chicago; liberal arts colleges such as Amherst, Swarthmore and Williams Colleges; and leading public institutions such as the Universities of Michigan, North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia. The 80 members expect more institutions to join.
While they aim to create a new way for students to apply, they also hope that the portfolio system they create prods changes in high school education that could have an impact beyond those who apply to these institutions.
The new group is called the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success. It will be open to public institutions with “affordable tuition along with need-based financial aid for in-state residents,” according to an outline provided by the coalition.
Private colleges may join if they “provide sufficient financial aid to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of every domestic student they admit.” That means colleges need not be need blind (in which admissions offers are made without regard to financial need) to participate. And indeed a number of colleges that have joined are “need aware” for some students, meaning that, for some of their slots, they consider only those students who do not have financial need. But colleges that engage in “gapping,” in which some admitted students are not provided enough aid to attend, will not be allowed to join. Gapping is common among private colleges that do not have substantial endowments.
To participate, colleges also must have a six-year federal graduation rate of 70 percent, a threshold that will exclude many public institutions.
A new application system. The coalition will introduce a new online application. Like the Common Application, there will be some factual information that students would need to enter only once (name, high school, etc.). But once an applicant hits short answers or essay or other sections, each college would prepare its own questions. The idea is to link many of the questions to material that applicants would have put in their portfolios, so applicants are not scrambling for ideas on essays but are relying on work they did in high school. (Standardized test scores and high school transcripts would continue to be provided to colleges.)
The goal of these three features is to change the way students, colleges and society think about the admissions process. “The idea isn't about how you should pad your résumé, but about how you should have significant experiences as part of your education,” said Horne.
Stephen M. Farmer, vice president for enrollment and undergraduate admissions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said UNC was joining because of the opportunity in this new approach to interact with low-income students much earlier, and to help them prepare for admission. “We’ve got to broaden our thinking about what constitutes talent,” he said, adding that this approach will lead universities to focus on developing the talent of high school students, not just picking already talented high school seniors.
A Challenge to the Common App?
One big question about the new system is how much of a challenge it will represent to the Common Application, which has more than 600 members, including most if not all of the new coalition's members. Over its 40-year history, the Common Application has grown from a small group of small liberal arts colleges to a dominant player in college admissions, attracting all kinds of colleges with competitive admissions, many of which have reported boosts to application numbers after joining the Common App.
All of the coalition members contacted for this article said that they plan to offer, but not require, the coalition application, and that they expect to continue having a majority of applicants (certainly in the coalition's early years) apply through the Common App.
The Universal College Application -- now up to 44 colleges -- gained ground in the wake of the Common App’s technical failures in 2013, but Universal has never had the critical mass or recognition among high school students of the Common App.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kidney exchange in Australia: steady progress

Here's a cheerful story about a 3-way kidney exchange in Australia,
Paired kidney exchange program gives patients waiting for organ donation new chance at life.

The Australian Paired Kidney Exchange Programme, run by Paolo Ferrari, seems to be making steady progress.

Here's the Australian Paired Kidney Exchange (AKX) programme Biannual Report #5 as of 30 June 2015
"To date the AKX programme has facilitated 121 live donor kidney transplants...
"Several innovations have been introduced or are under way this year. The NOMS-PKE platform has
undergone significant system revision and improvement, increasing its stability and performance; a
clearly defined process for enrolment of altruistic donors was made available to interested participating units and a pathway for hepatitis B core antibody positive donors as well as the corresponding matching option in NOMS have been developed and will be available from the next
match cycle in August 2015. A working party of Australian and New Zealand delegates is exploring
process and policies that may enable collaboration between the two countries with the AKX programme. This is a very exciting prospect that will benefit both Australian and New Zealand
incompatible pairs."

Incidentally, in the  Queen's Birthday 2015 Honours List, Professor Ferrari was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in recognition of his work in establishing kidney exchange in Australia.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Wie krijgt wat - en waarom (Who Gets What and Why--the Dutch translation)

Who Gets What - and Why is now available in Dutch: Wie krijgt wat - en waarom

Here are the other editions, so far, British and Romanian...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Matching, repugnance, and refugee resettlement

A Swiss review of my book Who Gets What and Why raises the issue of refugee resettlement:

Le Prix Nobel qui intervient sur des marchés répugnants by Emmanuel Garessus

His final paragraph:
"La comparaison avec l’immigration n’est pas impossible. Aujourd’hui, la demande s’adresse à des passeurs qui se moquent de la vie des individus et de leurs perspectives. Et l’offre ne réfléchit qu’en termes de planification, de barrières et de quotas. Pourquoi ne pas faire appel aux chercheurs qui, comme Alvin Roth, ont conçu, grâce à de vastes bases de données, des systèmes d’allocation permettant de satisfaire les besoins d’échanges des individus?"

Google translate renders that as
"Comparison with immigration is not impossible. Today, the demand is for smugglers who make fun of people's lives and their perspectives. And the offer does not reflect that in terms of planning, barriers and quotas. Why not appeal to researchers who, like Alvin Roth, designed through extensive databases of allocation systems to meet the needs of exchanges of individuals?"

I agree: here are my previous posts on refugees.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Boston is considering a unified enrollment system for district and charter schools

Unified enrollment systems cut down on congestion.
The Boston Globe has the story:

Plan would simplify Boston public school enrollments
"Boston officials plan to unveil a proposal Thursday for a unified system that would streamline the sometimes cumbersome school enrollment process, allowing students for the first time to simultaneously apply to charter and district schools.

Similar to the Common Application for college admissions, the system would clear up confusion among many parents by allowing them to enter a single lottery for Boston public schools and charters, officials said. Currently, families enter one lottery for district seats and another for each charter school.

Rather than have to fill out an application for each school, parents would fill out only one application through Boston public schools for whatever schools — charter or non-charter — they seek to enroll their child in.

“This is about moving forward and advancing education for . . . all kids, not just BPS kids,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a City Hall interview Wednesday. “They all deserve top-quality education.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Israeli law internships serve multiple purposes, as recent changes make clear

Internships and pre-licensing employment under other names serves multiple purposes. One purpose is to train future professionals. Another might be to limit entry into a profession. Both things seem to be at issue with law internships in Israel.

Ynet has the story:
New two-year internship challenges Israeli law students
While senior lawyers welcome new regulations announced by Justice Minister Shaked, law students complain internship is akin to 'modern slavery.'

"Israeli law students will now have to complete a two-year internship in order to become certified lawyers as part of new regulations announced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Tuesday.

"The current requirement is of a one-year internship. The new regulations will come into effect for all students starting law studies this fall.

"In her remarks at the annual conference of the Israel Bar Association, Shaked clarified that the process of being admitted to the bar would now take five years including studies.

"I decided to extend the length of the required internship period to two years believing that law students will be much better qualified and prepared to take their bar exam, and will have to show a great deal of dedication in order to become lawyers," Shaked said.

"This will lead to a decline in the number of lawyers, and an increase in their professional expertise," she concluded."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The kidney market in Iran: Russ Roberts interviews Tina Rosenberg (podcast)

This summer, Tina Rosenberg of the NY Times wrote about the Iranian kidney market, which I blogged about here:  Iran's market for kidneys in the NY Times

Now Russ Roberts at EconTalk has a podcast in which he interviews her:Tina Rosenberg on the Kidney Market in Iran

(He starts off by saying that in the podcast he did with me, I mentioned that there was a cash market in Iran, but he hadn't had time to follow up on that...)

Ms. Rosenberg spends some time talking about the fact that Iranian donors seem to feel stigmatized by selling a kidney, and prefer to remain anonymous, sometimes to the extent of not coming in for post surgical care, having given false contact information to the administrators involved.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct

Here is the new AAU report on sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

It focuses on non-consensual sexual conduct, and some of the questions reflect evolving notions of (affirmative) consent.

Here's one bit:

"Since you have been a student at [University], has someone had contact with you involving penetration or oral sex without your active, ongoing voluntary agreement? Examples include someone:
 initiating sexual activity despite your refusal
 ignoring your cues to stop or slow down
 went ahead without checking in or while you were still deciding
 otherwise failed to obtain your consent

"Females and those identifying as TGQN were the most likely to be victimized by this type of tactic. For example since enrolling at the IHE, 11.4 percent of undergraduate females and 14.8 percent of undergraduates who identify as TGQN were victimized by this tactic compared to 2.4 percent of males."

"TGQN = Transgender, Genderqueer or non-conforming, questionning or not listed."

Monday, September 21, 2015

eBay is 20

The Guardian has a nice column by John Naughton noticing that eBay is 20 years old this month, and suggesting that one of it's biggest innovations was its early reputation system:

How eBay built a new world on little more than trust--The ratings system introduced by the biggest car boot sale on earth is now used by everyone from Uber to Airbnb

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The real estate broker cartel is tough in India

Here's a report of real estate brokers in India roughing up the employees of a company that seeks to help buyers and sellers manage without realtors:
Sign of things to come? Property brokers rough up CEO and employees
Property brokers in Bengaluru resorted to physical assault to shut

"Bengaluru-based online real estate startup claimed that its office was “attacked” by local agents and brokers on Tuesday. As the name suggests, the startup helps customers to save money paid as brokerage, something which would worry traditional property brokers."

HT: Sangram Kadam

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Economists' declaration on universal health coverage

Larry Summers has organized a widely signed open letter supporting universal health coverage as a sensible global development goal. Here's the press release:

18 SEPTEMBER 2015 – A global coalition of 267 economists representing 44 countries is calling on policymakers to prioritize universal health coverage as an essential pillar of economic development. The Economists’ Declaration on Universal Health Coverage, published today in The Lancet medical journal, was convened by The Rockefeller Foundation and led by Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University.
Signatories include Nobel Laureates Joseph Stiglitz, Kenneth Arrow, Alvin Roth, Vernon Smith and Christopher Pissarides; the current and former chief economists of the World Bank, Kaushik Basu and Justin Yifu Lin; noted health economists Anne Mills and Victor Fuchs; and renowned economic thinkers Thomas Piketty, Linah Mohohlo, Bjørn Lomborg, Tony Atkinson, John Irons and Paul Collier. Economists on every continent are supporting the Declaration.
Launched as global leaders prepare to enact the Sustainable Development Goals – an ambitious agenda for the next 15 years that includes universal health coverage among its targets – the Economists’ Declaration proclaims that ensuring everyone can obtain high quality essential health services without suffering financial hardship is right, smart and affordable.
“Universal health coverage isn’t only the right thing to do – it’s also the economically smart thing to do,” said Lawrence H. Summers. “The data clearly show that health is essential to eradicating extreme poverty and promoting economic growth. I launched this Declaration to urge world leaders to act on that evidence.”
The Economic Case for Universal Health Coverage
The Declaration cites the considerable evidence supporting the signatories’ assertion that all countries have the opportunity to achieve universal health coverage and should prioritize reforms and investments toward it.
  • Historic Opportunity: With the right investments to increase availability of today’s health tools and discover, develop and deliver new interventions, the world has an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically reduce preventable maternal, child and infectious disease deaths and achieve a “grand convergence” in health across the world’s population by 2035.
  • Cost of Health: 150 million people fall into poverty every year paying for health. The 100+ countries already taking steps toward universal health coverage are demonstrating that it protects families from this risk, fostering more cohesive societies and more productive economies.
  • Driving Economic Growth: In the past decade, health improvements were responsible for nearly a quarter of full income growth in low- and middle-income countries. It is estimated that the economic benefits of investing in basic health care will be 10 times greater than the costs.
  • Building Resilience: Universal health coverage lessens the impact of shocks on communities. The debilitating effects of Ebola could have been mitigated by building up public health systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone at one third the cost of the Ebola response so far.
“With nearly half the world’s population now living in a country advancing toward universal health coverage, the case for universal coverage is strong and growing stronger. There is still work to be done to ensure more equitable access to life-saving services for the poorest and most vulnerable people,” said Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “The Rockefeller Foundation convened this Declaration by the world’s leading economists to demonstrate the financial benefits and feasibility of universal health coverage. With their resounding support, it is time to invest the resources to make health for all a reality.”
“We are at a juncture of history where the world can afford basic health coverage for all,” saidKaushik Basu, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank. “Given economic growth, donor country commitments and new mechanisms to raise local funds, countries, no matter at what stage of development, can provide universal health coverage.”
Health Is an Investment, Not a Cost
More than 100 countries across the development spectrum have begun working toward universal health coverage, increasingly demonstrating its feasibility. The Economists’ Declaration calls for increased domestic funding, donor country commitments and political leadership to advance pro-poor reforms toward universal health coverage.
“Healthy people are the engine of a country’s economic growth. Universal health coverage ensures that engine is constantly fueled,” said Linah Mohohlo, the Governor of the Bank of Botswana. “Our ability to build the planet we deserve depends on governments and global leaders stepping up to deliver on the promise of health for all people.”
“As the gap between rich and poor keeps growing, we must prioritize policies that work to counter inequality,” said Joseph Stiglitz, University Professor at Columbia University. “Universal health coverage does just that, ensuring everyone has access to health care, without which they cannot succeed, and strengthening economies as a result.”
Here's the full text of the letter.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Matching pets to homes: HBS celebrates Christine Exley and Wagaroo

HBS Working Knowledge interviews Christine Exley about Wagaroo, a marketplace for "rehoming" dogs who need a home:

Can Applied Economics Save Homeless Puppies?
"At a startup she co-founded while pursuing a doctorate in economics, Christine L. Exley is rescuing dogs with principles of market design"

"“Instead of people having to give their dog to the shelter, we can help them skip the shelter and directly rehome their dog into a new loving family,” says Exley, noting that the program also helps families follow best practices about rehoming their dogs via financial and informational resources, periodic tip emails, and individualized consultations where appropriate.
"For Exley and Battles, establishing safety meant preventing unethical breeders from posing as families needing to rehome their dogs. Wagaroo deals with that issue by not allowing owners in the Family2Family program to receive fees for their dogs. The logic: Puppy mills are in it for the money, which discourages them from posting on Wagaroo.

Some people don’t want pets to go to a family not willing to pay for it, and are hesitant to give their dogs away for free. Wagaroo agrees with this concern, Exley says, and thus encourages families to charge a different kind of rehoming fee that goes to Wagaroo, rather than to the previous owner. In return, Wagaroo uses the fee to help other dogs find homes and to support organizational operating costs."

My earlier posts about Wagaroo can be found here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Two and a half talks at U of Iowa

I'll be giving Thursday and Friday talks at the University of Iowa, on Thursday at the medical school (to transplant surgeons in the morning, and a more public talk in the afternoon), and on Friday a public talk at the Business School.

Here are some announcements, if you're on campus...


Distinguished Biomedical Scholar Lecture - Alvin Roth, PhD

Thursday, September 17 at 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Medical Education Research Facility, 1110A 375 Newton Road, Iowa City, Iowa

Alvin Roth, PhD, recipient of the 2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University and Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard University, will give a presentation on "Market Design and Medical Marketplaces" on September 17, 4:00-5:00 p.m. in the Prem Sahai Auditorium (1110 MERF). This event is co-sponsored by the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and the Tippie College of Business Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorship.

Ida Cordelia Beam Lecture: Nobel Laureate Al Roth

Friday, September 18 at 3:00pm to 4:00pm

Pappajohn Business Building, Room S401 21 East Market Street, Iowa City, Iowa

Alvin Roth, Ph.D., is the McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University, and is one of the world’s leading experts in the fields of market design and game theory. He was the co-recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics. He will speak on "Who Gets What and Why – Market Design and Marketplaces."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Scalping tickets to see the Pope

The NY Times has the story: After Lottery in New York to See Pope Francis, Some Winners Scalp Tickets Online

"Tickets to the Central Park procession have been offered on eBay from $200 to $400.

The mayor’s office vowed on Friday to crack down on online scalpers, and officials said that eBay and Craigslist had been quick to remove the ads at the city’s request.

“The city, along with the United States Secret Service, are monitoring ticket sales sites to remove tickets that are for sale,” said Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"Roman Catholic Church officials have been predictably unhappy that some are seeking to capitalize off the chance to glimpse the pope.

“Papal tickets are never intended to be sold,” said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a statement, adding that it had asked eBay and Craigslist to remove the ads. “Scalping of tickets to papal events is shameful and reprehensible.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New discussions of assisted suicide/death with dignity

California Assembly approves right-to-die legislation
"Ater nearly a quarter-century of efforts in California to afford terminally ill patients the right to end their lives with a doctor’s help, state lawmakers and the governor may be on the verge of granting the dying that authority.

The state Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to the terminally sick. The End of Life Option Act, which the Catholic Church and others oppose, awaits final approval by the Senate -- three months after that chamber passed a similar bill by a thin margin.

The fate of the legislation is likely to rest with Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student who has yet to articulate his position on the measure. Brown has expressed concern about it, based more on legislative procedure than his own beliefs."

California Legislature Approves Assisted Suicide
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In a landmark victory for supporters of assisted suicide, the California State Legislature on Friday gave final approval to a bill that would allow doctors to help terminally ill people end their own lives.

Four states — Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont — already allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medication to some patients. The California bill, which passed Friday in the State Senate by a vote of 23-14, will now go to Gov. Jerry Brown, who will roughly triple access to doctor-assisted suicide across the country if he signs it. Mr. Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, has given little indication of his intentions.

But leaders of the “death with dignity” movement said they hoped the passage of the California law could be a turning point in efforts to expand options for suffering patients at the ends of their lives.

“It allows for individual liberty and freedom, freedom of choice,” said Mark Leno, a Democrat from San Francisco, who compared the issue to gay marriage. “We’re doing something not only right today but profoundly important.”


In the NY Times a discussion of whether terminal illness is the only reason:
Helping a Suicide When the End Isn’t Near

Monday, September 14, 2015

Kieran Healy on Nuance in Sociology

In market design, we often have to think about how much detail is useful, for what purposes, and how much abstraction remains useful for theoretical models intended to inform detailed practice.

Something similar is discussed in a delightful paper by Kieran Healy on how much and what kind of nuance sociologists should embrace for different purposes in constructing social theories.

His paper and abstract set the stage, but don't do justice to the nuance in his argument:

Fuck Nuance
Kieran Healy
Duke University

Abstract: "Seriously, fuck it."

Here are some quotable quotes...

"often it is easier to embrace complexity than cut through it...

"This sort of nuance is fundamentally anti-theoretical. It blocks the process of abstraction that theory depends on.
" three nuance traps. First is the ever more detailed, merely empirical description of the world. This is the nuance of the fine-grain. It is a rejection of theory masquerading as increased applicability or range. Second is the ever more extensive expansion of some theoretical system in a way that effectively closes it offš from rebuttal or disconfirmation by anything in the world. This is the nuance of the conceptual framework. It is an evasion of the demand that a theory be refutable. And third is the insinuation that your sensitivity to nuance is a  manifestation of one’s distinctive (oftŸen metaphorically expressed and at times seemingly ineffšable) ability to grasp and express the richness, texture, and žflow of social reality itself. is is the nuance of the connoisseur. It is mostly a species of self-congratulatory symbolic violence.
"Demands for more nuance actively inhibit the process of abstraction that good theory depends on.
"Connoisseurs call for the contemplation of complexity almost for its own sake, or remind everyone that things are more subtle than they seem, or than you just said. The  attractive thing about this move is that it is literally always available to the person who wants to make it. Theory is founded on abstraction, abstraction means throwing away detail for the sake of a bit of generality, and so things are always “more complicated than that”—for any value of “that”. Connoisseurship gets its aesthetic bite, and a little kick of symbolic violence, from the easy insinuation that the person trying to simplify things is, sadly, a bit less sophisticated a thinker than the person pointing out that things are more complicated
"it is traditional in Sociology to deride the way Economists work, depending as they do on an extremely pared-down model of human action. There is no less nuanced a character than Homo Economicus. While it is easy to snipe at theory on this basis, the strategy of assuming a can opener (as the old desert-island joke goes) turns out to be an unreasonably šeffective way of generating some powerful ideas.
The paper contains some interesting facts about sociology as it is practiced (e.g. I didn't know that Foucault appreciated Becker)...

Healy has a blog post explaining the title of the paper here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Julian Jamison on the long history of randomized control trials, in the field and in the lab

A Controlled History of Randomized Assignment in Social Science*
Julian C. Jamison†
August 2015
Although the concept of randomized assignment in order to control for extraneous factors reaches back hundreds of years, the first known empirical use occurred in 1884 in an experiment on psychophysics by CS Peirce. Meanwhile, the first use of a control group in order to test the effect of an intervention occurred in medicine, informally in 1768 and then more carefully (but without randomization) in 1898. Remarkably, the combination of the two – a randomized control trial – was first instantiated in four different domains between 1924 and 1931, likely independently. These fields were agricultural science (with the celebrated contributions of RA Fisher); clinical medicine; educational psychology; and perhaps most surprisingly political science, in a voting experiment by HF Gosnell. Although this approach did not immediately become popular within social science broadly, there was a resurgence of interest in the 1950s and 1960s for both social policy experiments and formal laboratory experiments
update: link fixed...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Ethical issues concerning living donors: a European conference

ELPAT (it stands for Ethical, Legal and Psychosocial Aspects of Organ Transplantation) is organizing a conference on issues involving (chiefly) non-directed anonymous kidney donation in Brussels:

Sunday, 13 September, 09:00 - 12:50

Moderated by: Annette Lennerling, Gothenburg, Sweden and Willem Weimar, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Antonia Cronin: "Is it unethical for doctors to encourage healthy adults to donate a kidney to a stranger"

Antonia Cronin is Consultant Nephrologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the MRC Centre for Transplantation, King's College, London. She is chair of the British Transplantation Society Ethics Committee and appointed member of the UK Donation Ethics Committee. Her presentation will examine the legitimacy of allowing individuals to donate an organ to a stranger and explore the circumstances in which encouraging such a form of donation may be justified.

Willij Zuidema: "Unspecified donors and domino-paired chains"

Willij Zuidema is working at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. For years she is involved in the alternative living donation programs. Especially the program of the unspecified donors has her interest. The living donation program in Rotterdam is one of the largest in Europe with an expertise in unspecified donors and domino-paired chains. She will present the data and logistics of the unspecified donations and domino-paired transplants.

Mihaela Frunza: "Acceptability of public solicitation, the role of social media"

Mihaela Frunza is Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania. She will present a presentation where public solicitation of organs is critically assessed from a legal, moral, and practical perspective. Several recommendations are discussed that aim at maximizing the organ donor pool while safeguarding the interests of potential living donors.

Leonie Lopp: "The legal debate on anonymous donation"

Leonie Lopp studied law in Münster, Germany. Afterwards, she wrote her doctoral thesis with the title "Regulations regarding Living Organ Donation in Europe - Possibilities of Harmonisation". She will today present the results of comparing the legal regulations on living organ donation in Europe by focusing on anonymous living organ donation.

Hannah Maple: "Psychological outcomes after unspecified donation"

Hannah Maple is a trainee Renal Transplant surgeon in London, United Kingdom. She will present an overview of the psychosocial issues pertinent to unspecified donation. Additionally she will discuss the results of her UK based study into psychosocial outcomes after unspecified donation.

Linda Wright: "Ethical and practical issues of breaking anonymity"

Linda Wright conducts research on transplantation ethics with the Canadian National Transplant Research Programme in Toronto, Canada. She will discuss the experience of contact between anonymous living donors and their recipients and recommend a strategy to address this, in the absence of evidence to support best practice.

Friday, September 11, 2015

John Dickerson proposes

The Computer Science department at CMU publicly announces thesis proposals (which come pretty late in the dissertation writing). I'll be skyping into one today, by John Dickerson, who has been working on kidney exchange through the UNOS Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) Pilot Program. Here's the announcement:

Thesis Proposal: JOHN P. DICKERSON
A Unified Approach to Dynamic  Matching and Barter Exchange
Friday, September 11, 2015 – 12:00 p.m. - GHC 8102

The exchange of indivisible goods without money addresses a variety of constrained economic settings where a medium of exchange---such as money---is considered inappropriate. Participants are either matched directly with another participant or, in more complex domains, in barter cycles and chains with many other participants before exchanging their endowed goods. This thesis addresses the design, analysis, and real-world fielding of dynamic matching markets and barter exchanges.

We present new mathematical models for dynamic barter exchange that more accurately reflect reality, prove theoretical statements about the characteristics and behavior of these markets, and develop provably optimal market clearing algorithms for models of these markets that can be deployed in practice. We show that taking a holistic approach to balancing efficiency and fairness can often practically circumvent negative theoretical results. We support the theoretical claims made in this thesis with extensive experiments on data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Kidney Paired Donation Pilot Program, a large kidney exchange clearinghouse in the US with which we have been actively involved.

Specifically, we study three competing dimensions found in both matching markets and barter exchange: uncertainty over the existence of possible trades (represented as edges in a graph constructed from participants in the market), balancing efficiency and fairness, and inherent dynamism. For each individual dimension, we provide new theoretical insights as to the effect on market efficiency and match composition of clearing markets under models that explicitly consider those dimensions. We support each theoretical construct with new optimization models and techniques, and validate them on simulated and real kidney exchange data. In the cases of edge failure and dynamic matching, where edges and vertices arrive and depart over time, our algorithms perform substantially better than the status quo deterministic myopic matching algorithms used in
practice, and also scale to larger instance sizes than prior methods. In the fairness case, we empirically quantify the loss in system efficiency under a variety of equitable matching rules.

Next, we combine all of the dimensions, along with high-level human-provided guidance, into a unified framework for learning to match in a general dynamic model. This framework, which we coin FutureMatch, takes as input a high-level objective (e.g., ``maximize graft survival of transplants over time'') decided on by experts, then automatically (i) learns based on data how to make this objective concrete and (ii) learns the ``means'' to accomplish this goal---a task that, in our experience, humans handle poorly. We validate FutureMatch on UNOS exchange data and make policy recommendations based on it.

Finally, we present a model for liver exchange and a model for multi-organ exchange; for the latter, we  show that it theoretically and empirically will result in greater social welfare than multiple individual exchanges.

 Thesis Committee:
Tuomas Sandholm, Chair
 Avrim Blum
 Ariel Procaccia
 Craig Boutilier, Google
 Alvin Roth, Stanford University
Thesis Summary:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How Stanford Took On the Giants of Economics, in today's NY Times

The NY Times takes note of Stanford's economics department, and our recent hires of Matt Gentzkow and Raj Chetty:

How Stanford Took On the Giants of Economics, by Neil Irwin.

"The center of gravity for economic thought in the United States has long been found along the two miles in Cambridge, Mass., that run between Harvard University and M.I.T. But there is new competition for that title, and it is quite a bit farther west.

Stanford University has lured an all-star lineup of economists to Palo Alto, Calif., in the last few years — and fended off Harvard’s and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s attempts to woo Stanford economists.

The newest Stanford professors include a Nobel laureate — Alvin E. Roth, formerly of Harvard — but the shift is more noticeable among top young economists. Of the 11 people who have won the John Bates Clark Medal for best academic economist under age 40 since 2000, four are now at Stanford, more than at any other university. Two of them joined in the last few months: the inequality researcher Raj Chetty, who came from Harvard, and Matthew Gentzkow, who left the University of Chicago.

Stanford’s success with economists is part of a larger campaign to stake a claim as the country’s top university. Its draw combines a status as the nation’s “it” university — now with the lowest undergraduate acceptance rate and a narrow No. 2 for the biggest fund-raising haul — with its proximity to many of the world’s most dynamic companies. "
"“My sense is this is a good development for economics,” Mr. Chetty said. “I think Stanford is going to be another great department at the level of Harvard and M.I.T. doing this type of work, which is an example of economics becoming a deeper field. It’s a great thing for all the universities — I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game.”

Matthew Gentzkow, an economics professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. He was hired away from the University of Chicago. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Here's an earlier article on Stanford hiring Susan Athey and Guido Imbens and me, from the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012:
Stanford Lures Alvin Roth and 2 Other Economists From Harvard

My market design blog is 7 years old today

I have written over 3000 blog posts since starting this market design blog with Peter Coles seven years ago, in a post dated Sept 10, 2008.

A few posts have attracted more than usual traffic. One of these didn't say much, but lots of people checked out what I nevertheless managed to say in the early morning of  Oct 15, 2012. (That post probably got more comments than any other...) Some popular posts implicitly announced an impending move, either mine or someone else's (or several). (Some are hard to characterize but probably turn up in popular searches, like this post on doctor license plates.) Some refer to interesting markets, which may be interesting because they are repugnant. Some of my most viewed posts concerned small design changes to the market for new Ph.D. economists, on signaling and the scramble. Rosemarie Nagel's guessing game (later renamed "beauty contest) experiment is a perennial favorite (and here's more on that)..

"Repugnance" is the tag I have used most often to say what a post is about. Other tags I've used more than 100 times are (in alphabetical order) academic marketplace,  college admissions,  compensation for donors,  conference and conferences,  crime,  job market,  kidney exchange and kidneys,  market design and market designers,  matching,  papers,  school choice,  transplantation, and unraveling. A relatively new tag (first used in 2011) is video, which links to a variety of recorded lectures, interviews or news broadcasts, ranging from over an hour to just a few minutes.

One of my goals in starting a blog was to make a repository of market design things I wanted to remember--it has been reasonably successful at that. I also wanted it to be an adjunct to my teaching, and I think it has been reasonably successful in that as well, becoming a source of topics that students sometimes follow up on. And I wanted it to help disseminate the idea of market design to a wider audience, especially including (but not limited to) other economists. It's hard for me to judge how successful that has been, although I get the clear impression that the readership of the blog is vastly larger than the readership of my papers. (In that same vein, I have a book meant to make market design ideas accessible. It was published June 2,  and I've been chronicling my adventures connected with it under the tag WGWaW.)

At some point I got into the habit of posting something every day. I'm not committed to continuing that, but for now it is a (mostly early morning) routine that I still like.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Nepali market for surrogate births, and the earthquake

 The earthquake in Nepal shed some light on, among other things, the market for surrogates. This, from Bill of Health:
Surrogacy, Israel, and the Nepal Earthquake
"Nepal has become a major surrogacy destination for Israelis who because they are unmarried or gay cannot obtain surrogacy in Israel.  India and Thailand had been the prime choice for surrogates, but those countries two years ago restricted surrogacy to married couples.  Indian women already pregnant with children commissioned by unmarried persons then went to Nepal to give birth.   With surrogacy available in Nepal for $30,000-$50,000, rather than $150,000 in the United States, Israeli surrogacy agencies started arranging surrogacy births there, even while Indian rather than Nepalese women are usually the carriers."

Nepal's top court orders suspension of surrogacy services, AFP , August 26, 2015
"Nepal's top court has ordered a halt to commercial surrogacy services in the Himalayan nation until it rules on the legality of the practice, an official said Wednesday.

Nepal has become a destination for foreigners seeking to have children through surrogate mothers. The practice is controversial, with critics saying it exploits the poverty of women.

Although Nepal has no laws on its books covering surrogacy, the government last year allowed foreign women to serve as surrogates in Nepal but barred local women.

"There are no laws regarding surrogacy... it raises many constitutional and legal questions," said Nahakul Subedi, spokesman for the Supreme Court."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Refugee resettlement: long term policy versus immediate rescue

As refugees spill out of Syria and elsewhere, the first, immediate task is rescue. It is also a call to think about longer term policies.  Germany today is in the throes of rescuing refugees who were previously stranded in Hungary. But a look at German resettlement policy suggests that in the longer term, nations around the world should be thinking about how to match refugees to destinations.

That is to say, there’s a difference between stanching the bleeding now (which may involve matching resources to needs in an urgent manner), and thinking about what resettlement policy should look like in the steady state.

Note that, because current policy calls for refugees to remain in their country of 'first asylum,' both the refugees and the Hungarian authorities have an interest in having the refugees pass through Hungary undocumented. So there isn’t an opportunity for refugees to be registered where they first arrive, and then be processed in some orderly manner to final destinations…

Here's a recent NY Times article on the current reception of those refugees who transited Hungary.
German Quota System Highlights Possible Path and Pitfalls for Handling Crisis

"Throughout the night and into the morning, a well-oiled German bureaucratic machine had been at work moving the new arrivals from Bavaria to cities across the country: Some 1,500 to Dortmund, 650 to Braunschweig, and 470 to Saalfeld, among others.

"Over two days, nearly half of about 20,000 new arrivals had already been moved on.
"But all the movement by bus and train to unfamiliar locations has also created anxiety among some of the migrants.

“They take us to different cities, but we don’t know when or where,” said Ms. Hamawi, a 35-year-old native of Damascus, Syria, as she gathered bottles of water and a toy rabbit that volunteers gave her youngest son, Nadir, 8.

Germany is in many ways a laboratory of how the European Union could jointly tackle the migrant crisis. Key to the seamless response so far has been a quota system that has been in place for decades and distributes migrants across the country’s states according to their widely varying populations and economic prowess — much like the system Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed for the 28 member states of the European Union.

But if the German quota system highlights a possible path to a European solution, it is also laying bare the many pitfalls along the way.

Like many other migrants waiting to find out where in Germany they will end up, Ms. Hamawi has a clear preference: She would like to stay in Munich, perhaps go to Frankfurt or Hamburg or Stuttgart. After hearing from her husband, who fled Syria two years ago and is now in Dresden, about neo-Nazi arson attacks on asylum homes and the anti-Islamic movement that was born there a year ago, there is little that draws her to eastern Germany.
"Once applicants have been granted asylum they are free to settle anywhere in the country where they can find a job or a support system, although during the initial six months to a year when a decision on their asylum status is pending, most states require them to remain in the city where they applied.

"Some migrants, having risked their lives to come this far, were clearly not prepared to wait that long. Nor were they prepared, in some cases, to go just anywhere they were sent.

"Small groups of them left the temporary camp in the conference center — one of several across Munich and Bavaria — throughout Sunday and headed for Munich Central Station to make their own way to a city of their choice, allowed under the current exceptional circumstances."

Here's a link to the recent op ed I posted to on refugee resettlement as a matching problem: Migrants aren’t widgets

Monday, September 7, 2015

How are Realtors maintaining their cartel (even) in the internet age?

A new NBER paper sheds some light on Realtors...

Conflicts of Interest and the Realtor Commission Puzzle

Panle Jia BarwickParag A. PathakMaisy Wong

NBER Working Paper No. 21489
Issued in August 2015
This paper documents uniformity in real estate commission rates across markets and time using a dataset on realtor commissions for 653,475 residential listings in eastern Massachusetts from 1998-2011. Newly established real estate brokerage offices charging low commissions grow more slowly than comparable entrants with higher commissions. Properties listed with lower commission rates experience less favorable transaction outcomes: they are 5% less likely to sell and take 12% longer to sell. These adverse outcomes reflect decreased willingness of buyers' agents to intermediate low commission properties (steering) rather than heterogeneous seller preferences or reduced effort of listing agents. While all agents and offices prefer properties with high commissions, firms and agents with large market shares purchase a disproportionately small fraction of low commission properties. The negative outcomes for low commissions provide empirical support for regulatory concerns that steering reinforces the uniformity of commissions.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

HIAS president Mark Hetfield on the refugee crisis, on NPR

HIAS President: U.S., Europe Treating Migrant Crisis Like 'Business As Usual'

The United States has taken in 1,500 Syrian refugees since the conflict in that country started four years ago. Our next guest thinks the U.S. could and should be doing a lot more. He's Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS - that used to be the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. It is the oldest voluntary resettlement agency in the world and one of the biggest in this country. Welcome to the program.


SIEGEL: The U.S. State Department has indicated the U.S. could accept as many 8,000 Syrians in the coming fiscal year. What more do you think the U.S. should be doing?

HETFIELD: The U.S. should be doing a lot more. We're living through the biggest refugee crisis, certainly, of my lifetime. We have 200,000 dead in Syria. We have people who are fleeing not once, but twice from the conflict. And frankly, the United States and many countries in Europe are treating this like it's business as usual. Taking 8,000 refugees - let alone the 1,800 they might take this year - is not a serious response.

SIEGEL: What's a serious response? What's a number that's a serious response?

HETFIELD: Frankly, well, look at what we did in 1980, during the Indochina boat crisis. We took it over 200,000 refugees with no infrastructure in place to do so, and these were boat people. These weren't people who were coming to our shores; they were in Asia. We were able to mobilize and take 200,000. We should be looking at that number today.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Coping with Difficult Decisions – An Experimental Economics Perspective. Workshop in Dusseldorf in October

Ido Erev and Uri Gneezy will be speaking, and so will I.  The occasion is the formal ending of a long project begun by Reinhard Selten.

Here's the call for applications:

Call for Applications: Coping with Difficult Decisions – An Experimental Economics Perspective

Applications are invited for a Mini-School on “Coping with difficult decisions” to be held in Düsseldorf, Germany on October 20th, 2015. We are seeking advanced graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to join us for what we hope will be a fruitful scientific exchange.

The workshop is designed to foster an exchange of ideas between scholars interested in decision-making in complex problems. Problems may be considered complex either because of uncertainty as to how a well-defined goal can be achieved, or because a goal is itself not easy to define. The perspective will be mainly that of experimental economics, but theoretical and empirical aspects are equally welcome. 

The tentative elements of the Mini-School, running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., are as follows: 

- The staff of the Research Center “Rationality in the Light of Experimental Economics” (Bonn) will give an introductory lecture on selected methodological issues in complex experiments with examples from their research results.

- A number of the participating young researchers will have the opportunity to present their own research results in short talks, followed by brief discussions. 

- Afterwards, there will be small-group lunches during which participants will be given the opportunity to discuss their planned research. 

- All participants will be invited to present a poster at a poste r session. 

All participants are also invited to take part in an afternoon symposium, scheduled 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will feature presentations by Prof Ido Erev (Technion), Prof Uri Gneezy (UC San Diego), and Prof Alvin Roth (Stanford University), and conclude with a panel discussion. The symposium constitutes the second part of the closing workshop of the Research Center “Rationality in the Light of Experimental Economics” founded by Prof Reinhard Selten in 2006 and funded by the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts. 

We expect that applicants will typically be from the fields of Economics, Finance, Management and Organizations, and Psychology, but students from other areas, such as Computer Science,are also welcome. 

Applicants should 
- provide their CV, 
- make clear their particular connection to the topic of the Mini -School, 
- briefly sketch their potential contribution. 

The maximum number of participants is 32. Limited funding (€200 for European and €600 for non- European students) is available for travel and accommodation. When applying, please indicate whether you would need funding. 

Applications should be sent to 
not later than September 20th .