Thursday, February 28, 2019

Embryo adoption

The NY Times has the story:

Embryo ‘Adoption’ Is Growing, but It’s Getting Tangled in the Abortion Debate

"As evangelical Christians, Paul and Susan Lim believe that life begins at conception. So when they decided to have a third child, in vitro fertilization was out of the question, since the process often yields extra embryos.

"But “adopting” the frozen embryos of another couple who had gone through I.V.F. was not.

"Dr. Lim called it a “rescue operation.” To him, transferring donated embryos to his wife’s uterus was akin to saving a life. “These children are being abandoned in a frozen state,” he said. “If they don’t get adopted, they’re dead.”

"As I.V.F. becomes more widespread and the number of spare embryos rises, giving birth with donated embryos is becoming more popular, especially among couples who oppose abortion and are struggling with infertility. But many of the agencies that offer donated embryos, including a vast majority of those supported by federal grants, are affiliated with anti-abortion rights or Christian organizations, leading some people to question whether single people, gay couples and others who might be interested could be missing out.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 260,000 attempts at I.V.F. in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. Of those attempts, about 150,000 resulted in transfers of embryos. There is no reliable data on the number of frozen embryos in the United States, but experts estimate the total between 600,000 and one million.

Of the two million transfers of embryos to a woman’s uterus recorded by the C.D.C. from 2000 to 2016, only 16,000 were donor embryos. But over that period, the annual number of donor transfers rose sharply — from 334 in 2000 to 1,940 in 2016 — and experts say it is continuing to increase.
"National Embryo Donation Center, based in Knoxville, Tenn., is the largest embryo donation clinic in the country. It also requires potential families to be heterosexual couples who have been “married for a minimum of three years.”
Here is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)'s Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) page, and their
Assisted Reproductive Technology  National Summary Report for 2016

 *Noted earlier: "Of the 263,577 ART cycles performed in 2016, 65,840 cycles (25%) were started with the intent of cryopreserving (freezing) and storing all
resulting eggs or embryos for potential future use. However, because this cycle type (a banking ycle) cannot result in immediate pregnancy, the 65,840 banking cycles started in 2016 are not included in the majority of this national report."

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Organ trafficking in Egypt--the Guardian

From the Guardian's series on Trafficking and exploitation :

Organ trafficking in Egypt
"Desperate to reach Europe, migrants from Africa are travelling to Egypt and selling body parts to pay for their passage"

"The trade appears to be flourishing in Egypt, bolstered by an EU-funded clampdown on refugees by security forces. There, the hostile environment created by the arbitrary detention of migrants, and the hike in smugglers’ fees, is creating a perfect opportunity for unscrupulous organ brokers who prey on those desperate to raise funds to cross the Mediterranean.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Big game hunting for a fee, and conservation

The Washington Post has the story, which reports expressions of both repugnance and support:

A U.S. trophy hunter paid $110,000 to kill a rare mountain goat in Pakistan

"American hunter Bryan Kinsel Harlan poses with an Astore markhor, a mountain goat found in the Himalayan ranges of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, that he killed this month as part of a conservation program. Harlan paid $110,000 to shoot the goat, with the funds to be distributed to impoverished residents in the goats' habitat areas. (Tabarak Ullah)"

Monday, February 25, 2019

Congestion in resident and fellowship applications and interviews: Plastic Surgery

Medical graduates can enter plastic surgery through a residency immediately upon graduating.  As in many other specialties, there is lots of applying and interviewing before the residency or fellowship Match.  Here's a proposal to limit the number of applications:

Solving Congestion in the Plastic Surgery Match
Molina Burbano, Felipe, B.A.; Yao, Amy, B.S.; Burish, Nikki, M.D.; Ingargiola, Michael, M.D.; Freeman, Matthew, M.D.; Stock, Jeffrey, M.D.; Taub, Peter J., M.D.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: February 2019 - Volume 143 - Issue 2 - p 634–639

"Summary: Plastic and reconstructive surgery is among the most competitive specialties in the residency match. Applicants seeking to maximize their chances of a successful match often submit numerous applications to the National Residency Matching Program. It is not uncommon for those applying to plastic and reconstructive surgery to apply to every program. The high application volume imparts significant time and financial burden for applicants and programs alike. Furthermore, it makes distinguishing between applicants with a genuine interest in a specific program and those who are merely hoping to improve their chances vastly more difficult. The authors sought to characterize trends in the match rate, as the number of integrated plastic and reconstructive surgery programs continues to increase. Furthermore, they reviewed the literature on game theory for possible solutions to residency application congestion. The authors propose the use of the game theory model to explain the observed results and show why an application limit is the most reasonable approach to address this issue.
"it is not uncommon for those applying to plastic and reconstructive surgery to apply to every program. In fact, of a total of 73 available training programs in the 2017 season, senior U.S. applicants applied to a median of 70 programs

"Such a high application volume imparts significant time and financial burden for all parties involved. Applicants spend an average of $6073 and up to $15,000 on applications and interview travel.3 Residency program directors, in turn, must review a greater number of applications and conduct additional interview dates. Furthermore, distinguishing between applicants with a genuine interest in a specific program, versus those who are merely hoping to improve their chances, has become vastly more difficult, with some preferred applicants possibly getting overlooked in the process.4

"Weissbart et al. observed the same trend in the urology match and other competitive specialties.
"Introducing an application limit would guide applicants to apply to programs based on fit (i.e., where they felt they were viable applicants). Similarly, the reduction in applications would allow programs to focus more carefully on reviewing all received applications. A more thoughtful application process, with increased focus on each individual, will likely produce “better” matches. Further research would need to be conducted on the correct application limit and the possibility that less competitive students could be left unmatched if not allowed to apply as widely.

Plastic surgery was also attractive at Hogwarts, although not to Harry:

Harry Potter and the Resident Match |

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Used parts: a different kind of deceased donation

How crematoriums are recovering precious metals from inside the dead
Worth thousands of dollars a year, money from recycling metal joints, other implants, goes to charity

"The recycling bin behind the cremation chamber is the first tip-off that Elgin Mills Crematorium, north of Toronto, is up to something different.

"The green bin is full of medical implants, including titanium hips and knees, stainless steel bone screws — even gold teeth.

"The pieces gathered here were, until recently, inside the bodies of deceased people. Cremating a body incinerates nearly all biological material, but artificial materials can be collected quite literally out of the ashes.

"But the Mount Pleasant Cemetery Group, which operates Elgin Mills Crematorium, has adopted a system not only to safely recover these materials but recycle them with a rather altruistic buyer — who compensates them based on what they pass on.
"There are typically about a dozen metals collected after a series of cremations. Titanium from hip and knee replacements, gold and silver from dental work and jewellery, plus cobalt, palladium, platinum and a series of lower value materials from various other devices. It is then placed in a bin similar to what many Canadians use to take their own recycling to the curb.

"Rather than being diverted to a mass grave in a cemetery, however, the metals are collected by OrthoMetals, a Dutch firm that specializes in post-cremation recycling.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The unbundling of hotel services--marketplaces for luggage storage

Airbnb is remarkable for the way it has become a major competitor to hotels, by deploying properties that were designed (and may be zoned) as private residences.  In doing so, it has separated the lodging services that hotels provide from some of the other services, like lounges, restaurants, bars, gyms, spas, and ... luggage storage.  So what are you to do if your plane arrives hours before your airbnb is ready, or if you have time to kill after checkout time?

There's an app for that: Lifehacker has the rundown.
How to Temporarily Store Your Luggage When You're Staying at an Airbnb

There's Stasher, for "Luggage storage in trusted shops & hotels
Book on-demand at a low daily rate"

And Bounce: "Bounce: Bag Storage Everywhere--On-demand storage & delivery".

Luggage Hero: "Store your luggage in a local shop"

and in Europe, Nannybag.

Friday, February 22, 2019

De-biasing academic hiring?

This is the season when new Ph.D.'s in Economics are hired as assistant professors. More senior professors are hired throughout the year. A constant source of concern is how to promote a diverse professoriate.  But because academics are very different from one another, we have to get to know potential candidates reasonably well before we hire them. Just for example, they have papers that have to be read, and they typically give a seminar before the whole faculty once they get far enough in the process.

So...along with learning about what they have studied and written about, we also learn their race and gender, and where they studied and with whom, and what the senior scholars in their field think about them, and a host of other things that could influence our collective decision when it comes time to vote who to hire.

Here are two stories, from Britain and Finland, about efforts to design the faculty hiring process to remove "extraneous" considerations.  I am very skeptical that we can learn all that we need to know about candidates without learning extraneous things, so I would be astonished if these proposals gain traction.

Both articles, linked below from Inside Higher Ed,  appeared in Times Higher Education.

From Britain:

Trying to ‘De-Bias’ Faculty Recruiting
Can a shift in the way candidates are evaluated eliminate bias based on gender, race and background?
By John Morgan for Times Higher Education  January 31, 2019

"CVs and interviews are being removed from university hiring processes under a new approach to “de-bias” academic recruitment being pioneered in Britain.

"The Recruiting for Difference approach, billed as an attempt to address biases around gender, ethnicity and university background, is led by the recruitment firm Diversity by Design, co-founded by the writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe, former chair of council at the University of Sussex.

"Fanshawe, a founder of the LGBT equality charity Stonewall, said the aim was to “de-bias” to the greatest extent possible, explaining that, under this approach, “what you don’t use in the short-listing process at all is CVs.” He argued that stripping out CVs allowed universities to see the true qualities of the people they were considering for jobs.

"The application process allows applicants to state which journals they have published in and the roles they played in these papers. But candidates’ names do not figure in the short-listing process -- thus their gender and ethnicity are not revealed -- and at no stage of the hiring process is it disclosed at which universities candidates have worked or studied."

From Finland:
U of Helsinki Tries Anonymized Academic Hiring--Pilot project seeks to eliminate bias.
By Rachael Pells for Times Higher Education  December 20, 2018

"Finland’s leading university is trying the use of anonymized applications for academic roles as part of a nationwide push toward greater equality in hiring practices.

"The University of Helsinki confirmed that it was conducting two pilot programs focused on academic recruitment, in which applications were stripped of candidates’ names, dates of birth, ethnicities and genders.

"Universities are increasingly experimenting with name-blind student recruitment, and advocates of its use in the hiring process argue that it could help to limit the impact of unconscious biases that penalize women and minorities.

"However, there are questions over whether it could catch on in academic departments, in which recruitment decisions are closely tied to a researcher’s publication record and scholarly reputation."

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Marijuana debate in New Hampshire

The NY Times has the story:

Legalize Pot? Amid Opioid Crisis, Some New Hampshire Leaders Say No Way

"MANCHESTER, N.H. — The push to legalize recreational marijuana is sweeping the Northeast: Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine have done it, and the governors of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey say they want their states to do it, too.

"But in New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu and some other state leaders are opposed. The problem, they say, is not just about pot. It’s about opioids — drugs that have ripped across this state, devastating thousands of residents and leaving New Hampshire in recent years with one of the highest per capita death rates from opioid-related overdoses. After so many deaths, so much misery and so much state money spent fighting opioids, the opponents say, how could anyone even think about easing access to some other drug?

"There is little consensus about a relationship between marijuana use and opioid addiction, and the debate in New Hampshire, where a key vote on the issue is expected this week, is tapping into a national discussion about whether marijuana is a gateway drug or something else entirely."

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Market design in Management Science (the journal)

The journal Management Science is open to market design papers in at least two of its departments. Gabriel Weintraub alerts me to the following announcement:

Revenue Management and Market Analytics Department in Management Science

It begins:

Dear MD colleagues:

We wrote the blog below about this new department in Management Science. Part of the mission of the department is related to “market analytics”, which has a significant market design component. We have been receiving several strong market design papers from economists and from other disciplines but would like to see more, so we are sharing this here. 

We look forward to receiving your work!


Gabriel Weintraub
Associate Professor
Stanford GSB

Official and unoffical Iranian kidney marketplaces--online prices

The Journal of Urology has published an in-press short paper about an informal website that seems to operate alongside the official Iranian monetary market for kidneys. (Thanks to Jim Brooks for the pointer.)

 Donor Willingness to Accept for Selling a Kidney for Transplantation: Evidence from Iran  by Mehdi Feizi and Tannaz Moeindarbari

"The Iranian model of kidney donation, established in 1988, is a state-funded system of living  renal  transplant  where  the  government  pays  for  all  transplant-related  expenses.  The Iranian Kidney Foundation, IKF hereafter, is in charge to match recipients and compensated donors. On the supply side, each donor registers at the local IKF after conducting preliminary medical  tests.  On  the  demand  side,  any  ESRD  patient  could  enter  the  kidney  waiting  list according to his/her blood type. A renal patient is matched to a donor, basically with the same blood type, based on the first come, first served.

"Both sides could also find each other outside the IKF, say in an online kidney matching website. However, since the transplant is exclusively possible through an official letter from the IKF,  they  have to register there."
The article goes on to analyze prices asked and offered for kidney donation at the online kidney website that they refer to, .  It's in Farsi, but when I ask Google to translate it, their home page looks pretty interesting.  (It seems to offer the opportunity to search for kidneys by price as well as blood type.)

It contains some cautionary sentences:

"If you want to reach your goal without problems on this website, refuse to pay any money before the operation. Also, carry out kidney donation only through the Association for the Protection of Nephrology in your city."

It would be interesting to understand how websites like this interact with the official kidney market.

They also have a list of "our other websites" (again, in translation). The first one deals with surrogacy:

 Rental uterus

 My card

 Kidney donation

 The purse

 Amateur crafts

 Toggle Finder

 Mbti test


 Buy and Sell a Loan


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Congratulations to the 2019 Sloan Fellows

The full list, across all disciplines is here:

2019 Sloan Research Fellows

 Here are the 2019 economists:


Nikhil Agarwal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Denis Chetverikov, University of California, Los Angeles
Rebecca Diamond, Stanford University
Will Dobbie, Princeton University
Michal Kolesár, Princeton University
Melanie Morten, Stanford University
Philipp Strack, University of California, Berkeley
Gabriel Zucman, University of California, Berkeley

And the computer scientists:

Computer Science

Yang Cai, McGill University
Alvin Cheung, University of Washington
Reetuparna Das, University of Michigan
Rong Ge, Duke University
Bernhard Haeupler, Carnegie Mellon University
Moritz Hardt, University of California, Berkeley
Haitham Hassanieh, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Gillat Kol, Princeton University
Jason D. Lee, University of Southern California
Sergey Levine, University of California, Berkeley
Wyatt Lloyd, Princeton University
Shayan Oveis Gharan, University of Washington
Emily Whiting, Boston University
Christopher Wilson, Northeastern University
Keith Winstein, Stanford University
Mary Wootters, Stanford University

Payments for kidney disease in the U.S.

Medpage Today has the story:

Kidney Disease Payment System Draws Medicare Scrutiny
'We do not think the state of kidney disease care is acceptable'

"Medicare needs to change the way it pays for kidney disease treatment in order to get better results, Adam Boehler, director of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, said here.

"We do not think the state of kidney care is acceptable," Boehler said Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. "Right now, we're at a place where 10% of patients in Medicare [with kidney disease] are seen at home, while you have Hong Kong, with a 70% rate. That's not OK. The level of transplants is not OK."

"What happens is that end-stage renal disease (ESRD) is siphoned out and [effort is] focused there, instead of viewing the whole spectrum, instead of thinking about chronic kidney disease before ranging from diagnosing it in the first place, to integration of later-stage chronic kidney disease, to ESRD," he said. "Because what you really want is the prevention of ESRD from developing," he said. "If it develops, you want [it] to be transplant wherever possible; if not, [treatment at] home wherever possible, and it should be a last resort that people go to a dialysis center."


"Boehler said he wasn't trying to demonize dialysis centers. "It's our fault; we set the incentives," he said, referring to Medicare. "You need to change those incentives. If we want people to do what's best for patients, if we want them to lower costs and improve quality for patients, they need to make money for doing that -- we'll look specialty by specialty to set it up like that."

"Medicare spends about $120 billion a year on kidney care, Boehler noted. "The first thing you may think about in ESRD is dialysis centers ... but that is not the majority of spend. The majority of spend is in other places -- hospitals, complications arising from them, et cetera. That doesn't mean we have to cut the spend there; it means you have to change around the way people make money." Right now, he said, for the dialysis centers, "if somebody gets a transplant, that's a lost customer."

Monday, February 18, 2019

Carbon tax and dividend--now supported by 3300 economists from Aaron to Zykaj

The Financial Times reports on the growing number of U.S. economists who support a carbon tax, with the money to be returned to citizens as equal lump sum rebates.

Surge in US economists’ support for carbon tax to tackle emissions

"The carbon tax proposal, organised by the Climate Leadership Council, is a bipartisan effort that has united senior economists from both parties, and now garnered 3,300 signatures from professional economists and academics across the US."

Here's the statement, and a list of all the signers from Henry Aaron to Blerina Zykaj; it's a long list...

The Largest Public Statement of Economists in History

Earlier post:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Refugees and asylum seekers, in three charts

From the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,

Where Do Most Refugees Come From, and Where Do They Go?
 By Subhayu Bandyopadhyay, and Asha Bharadwaj,

Saturday, February 16, 2019

More on the immigration "emergency": U.S. undocumented population continues to fall

The latest  Journal on Migration and Human Security has an article whose title conveys a lot of information.  For example, most undocumented residents didn't cross the border illegally.

US Undocumented Population Continued to Fall from 2016 to 2017 and Visa Overstays Significantly Exceeded Illegal Crossings for the Seventh Consecutive Year  by Robert Warren

This article presents estimates of the US undocumented population for 2017 derived by the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS). It focuses on the steep decline in the undocumented population from Mexico since 2010. While the president has focused the nation’s attention on the border wall, half a million[1] US undocumented residents from Mexico left[2] the undocumented population in 2016 alone, more than three times the number that arrived that year, leading to an overall decrease of nearly 400,000 undocumented residents from Mexico from 2016 to 2017. From 2010 to 2017, the undocumented population from Mexico fell by a remarkable 1.3 million.
For the past 10 years, the primary mode of entry for the undocumented population has been to overstay temporary visas. This article provides estimates of the number of noncitizens who overstayed temporary visas and those who entered without inspection (EWIs) in 2016 by the top five countries of origin.
Summary of Findings
  • The US undocumented population from Mexico fell by almost 400,000 in 2017.
  • In 2017, for the first time, the population from Mexico constituted less than one half of the total undocumented population.
  • Since 2010, the undocumented population from Mexico has declined by 1.3 million.
  • In California, the undocumented population from Mexico has declined by 26 percent since 2010, falling from 2.0 to 1.5 million; it also dropped by 50 percent in Alabama, and by one third in Georgia, New York, and New Mexico.
  • The undocumented population from Venezuela grew rapidly after 2013, increasing from 60,000 to 145,000 in just four years.
  • Visa overstays have significantly exceeded illegal border crossings during each of the last seven years.
  • Mexico was the leading country for overstays in 2017, with about twice as many as India or China.
The estimates presented here were derived by CMS based on information collected in the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey (ACS). 
See earlier, same author:

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Friday, February 15, 2019

Commercial surrogacy to be legalized in New York?

Some stories on the current proposals and the controversy involved.

From the NY Post:

Cuomo proposes law to end ban on surrogate moms

"Gov. Cuomo is proposing a new law that will lift the ban on surrogacy contracts — enabling New Yorkers for the first time to pay a woman to have a baby for them through in-vitro fertilization.
The ban has been in place since 1992.
“New York’s antiquated laws frankly are discriminatory against all couples struggling with fertility, same sex or otherwise” Cuomo said in a statement to The Post."
From the National Catholic Register:
Cuomo Proposal Would Lift New York’s Ban on Surrogacy Contracts --Under current law, surrogacy contracts in the state are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or by a felony charge.
"Just days after expanding legal abortion up to the point of birth, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a law that would lift the ban on surrogacy contracts in the state of New York.
If passed, the law would allow New Yorkers to pay a woman to carry to term a child conceived through in vitro fertilization. It would not allow a surrogate mother to use her own eggs (and therefore be related biologically to the child).
"Cuomo’s proposal, called the Child-Parent Security Act, is included in the governor’s executive budget plan for the state and is something his administration has been considering since at least 2015, according to the Post.  
When Cuomo first floated the idea, Jennifer Lahl of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, slammed surrogacy for treating women “like breeding animals.”
“We try to get a mother and a baby to bond,” Lahl told the Post in 2015. “We’re against ripping the baby from the mother the moment he leaves the womb. It’s not good for the child.”
Surrogacy laws vary widely throughout the United States. Besides New York, only three other states explicitly ban all surrogacy contracts: Nebraska, Michigan, and Arizona. Many other states have restrictions on surrogacy agreements and treat the surrogacy process similarly to adoption, requiring court appearances, home studies and a window for the birth mother to change her mind after the baby is born.
Surrogate mothers are typically paid between $30,000 and $50,000 for carrying a child to term, depending upon the state and the contract.  
"Kathleen Gallagher, the New York Catholic Conference director of pro-life activities, told the Post that she found the New York proposal “appalling.”
“This is the buying and selling of children and the exploitation of women. There are going to be poor women exploited by wealthy couples,” she said.
The Catholic Church denounced the practice of surrogacy in the 1987 document Donum Vitae, in which the Vatican stated that surrogacy “represents an objective failure to meet the obligations of maternal love,” calling it a “detriment” to the family and the dignity of the human person by divorcing the “physical, psychological and moral elements which constitute those families.”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Matching story for Valentine's day--BBC

Valentine's Day sparks a demand not just for love, but also for stories about marriage as a matching market.  This year I was among those interviewed by the BBC.  Below are two links:  you can listen to the interviews, or read a summary.

First, the interviews: They go for 18 minutes, and are easy listening.  I'm interviewed third, beginning just before minute 10 and going to about minute 14.   (I didn't see a way to embed it) :

Rational Partner Choice: "Should your head trump your heart when seeking lifelong love? We ask an economist, a romantic novelist and a hyper-rationalist businessman this Valentine's Day challenge."

(There actually are 4 interviews, the fourth is with the wife of the businessman, Ed Conard: they've been happily married for 20 years.)

The written summary has me as the middle of three views on the subject (the headline below reflects the first of the views they considered, with marriage modeled as an optimal stopping problem).

Forget love: This is how to find your perfect partner  By Justin Rowlatt

Here's what they say about their conversation with me:

"Mr Conard's approach to choosing a wife is a well-established method for buying things like a new place to live but, says Nobel Prize winning economist Alvin Roth, spouses aren't like houses: marriage is a market without prices.
"He agrees that it is important to meet quite a few possible partners before you take the plunge - "don't marry the first person you meet", he warns.

"You've also got to have realistic expectations: "the first thing a matrimonial agency has to do is persuade clients they aren't a 10."

"But, he says, you can do too much calibrating and evaluating. Choosing a partner is a two-way thing: it is only when you are serious about marriage that potential partners will take you seriously.

"Part of being well matched is the history you share and this starts when you first meet", Prof Roth says, "so investing in that history improves the quality of that match."
And here are my Valentine's Day blog posts to date.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Market design through machine learning: David Parkes

If I were in Boston I'd go to hear David Parkes speak today about

Optimal Economic Design through Deep Learning

Abstract: Designing an auction that maximizes expected revenue is a major open problem in economics. Despite significant effort, only the single-item case is fully understood. We ask whether the tools of deep learning can be used to make progress. We show that multi-layer neural networks can learn essentially optimal auction designs for the few problems that have been solved analytically, and can be used to design auctions for poorly understood problems, including settings with multiple items and budget constraints. I will also overview applications to other problems of optimal economic design, and discuss the broader implications of this work. Joint work with Paul Duetting (London School of Economics), Zhe Feng (Harvard University), Noah Golowich (Harvard University), Harikrishna Narasimhan (Harvard -> Google), and Sai Srivatsa (Harvard University). Working paper:

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The new market for (and marketing of) nicotine--Robert Jackler (followed by the CDC)

My colleague Rob Jackler has been investigating the marketing of nicotine delivered through (non-burning) e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without combustion products, by "vaping." Apparently nicotine is highly addictive, and the marketing is taking aim at very young people, including  "stealth" delivery systems designed to camouflage the act of vaping.

Here's a Stanford Medicine interview, published yesterday:
Robert Jackler says Juul spurs 'nicotine arms race'

Here's a figure from the paper "Nicotine arms race: JUUL and the high-nicotine product market, " by Robert K Jackler, Divya Ramamurthi, in the Journal Tobacco Control.

 And here's a figure from the article
"JUUL and other stealth vaporisers: hiding the habit from parents and teachers," by Divya Ramamurthi, Cindy Chau, Robert K Jackler, in Tobacco Control

In related news, also published yesterday, here's a press release from the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
4.9 million middle and high school students used tobacco products in 2018

"About 4.9 million middle and high school students were current users (used in the past 30 days) of some type of tobacco product in 2018, up from 3.6 million in 2017. This increase—driven by a surge in e-cigarette use—erased past progress in reducing youth tobacco product use, according to a new Vital Signs report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"More than 1 in 4 (27.1%) high school students and about 1 in 14 (7.2%) middle school students currently used a tobacco product in 2018. For the fifth year in a row, e-cigarettes (20.8%) were the most commonly used tobacco product among high schoolers...
"This Vital Signs report is based on data from the 2011–2018 National Youth Tobacco Surveys analyzed by CDC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI)."

Here's a figure from the Vital Signs report:

Monday, February 11, 2019

Computational and Experimental Economics Conference in Barcelona

Here's the call for papers, by Feb 28:
Computational and Experimental Economics

The workshop will run for 2 days and will take place on June 10-11, 2019 in Barcelona. In this two days’ workshop we want to bring together researchers working in two quite separate fields, computational economics and experimental economics, which yet have seen a steady increase of fruitful interaction in the recent years ( see e.g. The Handbook of Computational Economics, Heterogenous Agents, Edited by Cars Hommes, Blake LeBaron, Volume 4, 2018, Elsevier.).
Topics include the understanding of the emergent dynamic properties of economic models, some of which are too complex to solve analytically. However, human behavior can often be captured by relatively simple heuristics. While computational economics departs from simulations to derive their models, experimental economics uses human behavior and then often simulation techniques to develop descriptive models of such behavior. Such models include Agent Based Modeling (ABM), models of learning based on genetic algorithm, Reinforcement models, and other learning or cognitive models.

Keynote Speakers

Workshop organizers

Digital Economy and Inclusive Growth--report from the Luohan Academy

Here's an initial report from the Luohan Academy:

 Digital Technology and Inclusive Growth--Executive Summary

From the mission statement:
"Social scientists in general, including economists, must therefore collaborate to help societies adapt smoothly and fairly to the digital revolution. Two important objectives of the academic community are first, to understand business models and market structures that enable growth and progress, and second, to identify the impact of digitization on individual and social welfare. So far the rapidly increasing scale of digitization has not been followed by a corresponding increase in theoretically grounded empirical research on the rationales,  consequences, and policies of digitization. A well-organized research community could greatly facilitate and speed up such research efforts."

And, as the report makes clear, China is a good place to study ecommerce:

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Stanford GSB celebrates Mohammad Akbarpour

Mohammad Akbarpour: Humanizing Math for the Greater Good
"The Stanford GSB economist discusses his groundbreaking research into kidney exchanges, wealth inequality, and “anything that wakes me up at night.”
"In 2012, ...He and four of his close friends, who had all attended high school, college, or graduate school together, were feeling unsatisfied with their influence beyond Stanford’s manicured campus. Then Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, presented at Stanford GSB.

"After watching Khan’s talk, Akbarpour and his friends built KelaseDars, also known as KhanacademyFarsi, to which Akbarpour has now contributed more than 280 videos on subjects ranging from high school Newtonian physics to college-level game theory. The website as a whole has delivered more than 5 million free lessons to Farsi speakers who would otherwise not have access to a high-quality education. Many of them live in Afghanistan and Iran.
"It was hectic and hard, “but it was a beautiful experience with a magnificent team,” Akbarpour says. “KelaseDars is the most meaningful thing I’ve done with my life.”

And here:

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Kidney matching podcast: Jeremiah Johnson interviews me and Josh Morrison

On the Neoliberal Podcast (49 minutes):
Kidney Matching featuring Dr Alvin Roth & Josh Morrison

Josh Morrison, who donated one of his kidneys as a non-directed donor, is a founder of Waitlist Zero.

The audio connection seemed to change my voice a bit: here's an unusual comment, forwarded to me by a twitter-literate colleague:
Dr Roth has the velvetiest voice I’ve ever heard

(if you find voices entertaining, you can compare it to the audio in yesterday's post, where I thought I sounded more like myself.)

Friday, February 8, 2019

Kidney exchange chains and altruistic kidney donation on PBS newshour

PBS economics correspondent Paul Solman interviews non-directed kidney donors, and kidney exchange patients, and me, in yesterday's PBS newshour.

Here's a link to video of the 10 minute segment on kidneys, including a transcript.
How an economist’s idea to create kidney transplant chains has saved lives

and here's the video itself:

The show talks about how a single altruistic donor can initiate a long chain of kidney transplants that helps many people.

The kidney exchange organization that started non-simultaneous non-directed donor chains is the Alliance for Paired Donation, run by Mike Rees, and I think that they still organize the longest chains, i.e. the ones with the highest average number of transplants.  

The very first long chain was reported in this article in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Rees, Michael A., Jonathan E. Kopke, Ronald P. Pelletier, Dorry L. Segev, Matthew E. Rutter, Alfredo J. Fabrega, Jeffrey Rogers, Oleh G. Pankewycz, Janet Hiller, Alvin E. Roth, Tuomas Sandholm, Utku Ünver, and Robert A. Montgomery, “A Non-Simultaneous Extended Altruistic Donor Chain,” New England Journal of Medicine, 360;11, March 12, 2009

Here's the full hour-long newshour: kidneys are from about minute 34:46 to minute 44:38 on the video below.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Michel Balinski (1933-2019)

Michel Balinski, perhaps best known for his work on the design of voting systems*, has passed away.
Here's the announcement:

"INFORMS is saddened to share the passing of Michel Balinski, a long-time INFORMS member and a major figure in operations research, mathematics, economics, and political science. Balinski is best known for bringing O.R. methodology to bear on the electoral process, for which he is recognized as the inventor of several fair voting and representation systems. We invite you to share remembrances, photos, and other thoughts on this post, and to learn more about Michel Balinski's incredible career and contributions to the field. His full biography is available under INFORMS History of O.R. and Excellence on"

*See e.g.
Fair Representation: Meeting the Ideal of One Man, One Vote  
By Michel L. Balinski, H. Peyton Young

Philly and Feds at odds over reducing opioid overdoses

Here's the story from NPR:

U.S. Prosecutors Sue To Stop Nation's First Supervised Injection Site For Opioids

"After months of threats, federal prosecutors in Philadelphia launched a legal challenge on Wednesday against the nonprofit Safehouse, which is hoping to open what could be the nation's first site where people with opioid addiction can use drugs under medical supervision.

"The civil lawsuit, which is jointly being pursued by Pennsylvania-based prosecutors and the Department of Justice in Washington, is the first time the federal government has intervened in the hotly debated issue of supervised injection sites. The lawsuit could become an important legal test case as about a dozen cities across the country consider similar proposals.
"The provision of the law in question is widely known as the crack house statute. It makes it illegal to maintain a space for the purpose of making, storing, distributing or using an illegal drug. Safehouse would not make or provide opioids to users. But it would allow people to bring in their own drugs, to use while being monitored by medical staff."

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Transplant statistics (through 2016) from the 2018 USRDS annual data report

The United States Renal Data System. 2018 USRDS annual data report  has come out. It seems to cover data through 2016.  Here are the bullet points on transplantation.

Chapter 6: Transplantation

  • In 2016, 20,161 kidney transplants were performed in the United States (19,301 were kidney-alone; Figure 6.6).
  • Fewer than a third (28%) of kidneys transplanted in 2016 were from living donors (Figure 6.6).
  • From 2015 to 2016, the cumulative number of recipients with a functioning kidney transplant increased by 3.4%, from 208,032 to a total of 215,061 (Figure 6.7).
  • On December 31, 2016, the kidney transplant waiting list had 81,418 candidates on dialysis, 51,238 (62.9%) of whom were active. Eighty-five percent of all candidates were awaiting their first transplant (Figure 6.1).
  • Among Candidates newly wait-listed for either a first or repeat kidney-alone transplant (living or deceased-donor) during 2011, the median waiting time to transplant was 4.0 years (Figure 6.4). This waiting time varied greatly by region of the country, from a low of 1.4 years in Nebraska to a high of 5.1 years in Georgia (Reference Table E.2.2).
  • Unadjusted rates of kidney transplantation among dialysis patients had been declining since at least 2006 for candidates for both living and deceased donors. These appear to have stabilized as of 2013, at about 2.5 per 100 dialysis patient-years for recipients from deceased donors and about 1.0 per 100 dialysis patient-years for recipients from living donors (Figure 6.8).
  • The number of deceased kidney donors, aged 1-74 years, with at least one kidney retrieved increased by 62.7%, from 5,981 in 2001 to 9,732 in 2016 (Figure 6.19.a).
  • The rate of kidney donation from deceased Blacks/African Americans nearly doubled from 2002 to 2016, from 4.5 to 7.9 donations per 1,000 deaths (Figure 6.21.b). This rate overtook that of Whites in 2009. Asians consistently had the highest rate of deceased kidney donation during this time, at about 9 per 1,000 deaths.
  • Since 1999, Whites have had the highest rate of living kidney donation, although this has been in decline along with all other races except Asians, who as of 2016 showed rates of living donation essentially equivalent to Whites (Figure 6.16.b).
  • Eighteen percent of kidneys recovered from deceased donors were discarded in 2016; this rate has increased slightly since 2010.
  • The number of kidney paired donation transplants has risen sharply since 2005, with 642 performed in 2016, which represented 11% of living-donor transplants that year. The rate plateaued during 2012-2014 but increased again in 2016 (Figure 6.18).*
  • Since 1999, the probabilities of graft survival have improved among recipients of both living and deceased-donor kidney transplants, over both the short-term (one-year survival) and long-term (five and ten-year survival) (Figure 6.25).
  • In 2015, the probabilities of one-year graft survival were 93% for deceased and 98% for living-donor kidney transplant recipients (Figure 6.25).
  • In 2015, the probabilities of patient survival within one-year post-transplant were 96% and 99% of deceased- and living-donor kidney transplant recipients (Figure 2.6).
  • The one-year graft-survival and patient-survival advantages experienced by living-donor transplant recipients persisted at five and ten years post-transplant (Figures 6.25 and 6.26).

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Repugnance in Spain: surrogacy and prostitution

I've relatively recently started to pay attention to repugnance in Spain, here are some useful older links.

From El Pais:
Spain struggles with surrogate pregnancy issue
Practice is illegal here but debate rages over whether surrogacy is a right or a form of exploitation

From la Asociación por la Gestación Subrogada en España
Sobre la Gestación Subrogada

GT "In our country the surrogate pregnancy is illegal: Article 10 of Law 14/2006, of May 26, on Techniques of Assisted Human Reproduction establishes that the contract by which gestation is agreed, with or without price, in charge of a woman who renounces maternal filiation in favor of the contracting party or third party is null and void. 

"However, the Instruction of October 5, 2010 of the General Directorate of Registries and Notaries has left without effective content the prohibition of surrogate pregnancy by contemplating the registration in the Civil Registry of children of this technique provided that the procedure has been carried out in a country where this technique is regulated, that one of the parents is Spanish and that there is a court order that guarantees, among other aspects, the rights of the pregnant woman. The name of this woman will not appear in the annotation made in our records.

"This creates an important discrimination between those Spaniards who can afford treatment outside our borders and those who can not."

From Bright Magazine;
Decriminalizing Sex Work in Spain Made It Safer For Women — and Traffickers
Thirty years ago, most sex workers were Spanish. Today almost 90 percent are immigrants, most under the control of organized crime networks.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Kidney exchange in Israel using Itai Ashlagi's software

My colleague Itai Ashlagi has been inventing, building, distributing and updating state of the art kidney exchange software ever since he came to Harvard, some years ago. Since then he's been at MIT, and now Stanford, but this recent article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about how his software is propagating in Israel still thinks he's at Harvard:

New program finds donors for complicated kidney transplant patients

"JERUSALEM (JTA) — Kidney transplant patients who have had a hard time finding a match will have another opportunity through a new unit at an Israeli hospital.

"Kidney transplant patients who suffer from high levels of antibodies due to previous transplants or blood donations can go for many years without finding a suitable donor. A new and advanced software program can be used to cross-check through advanced information systems from hospitals in Israel and around the world.

"The program, developed by Professor Itai Ashlagi of Harvard University, was donated to the Matnat Chaim organization and will be operated out of Beilinson Hospital’s Department of Transplantation in Petach Tikvah, in central Israel."