Sunday, March 31, 2019

Repugnance in the runup to elections

Primary elections give political hopefuls a chance to try out their views on many things, including controversial transactions and markets, that some find repugnant.  The many potential Democratic candidates should give us an opportunity to hear about some of those (although none of them are likely to be part of platforms in the general election...)

Here's a CNN headline that cuts to the chase:

Drugs, sex work and gambling embraced by 2020 hopefuls
"A Democrat wants to legalize sex work. A Republican governor is trying to legalize sports betting in his state. The vast majority of Democrats running for President want to legalize marijuana.
"The effort led by Sen. Cory Booker to legalize marijuana doesn't really even feel that controversial. Not all of his potential rivals for the Democratic primary have signed on, but most have.
"Sen. Kamala Harris supports legalizing sex work, which she discussed with the website The Root, complaining that current law ends up hurting women more than johns and pimps who can benefit from prostitution.
"When you're talking about consenting adults, you know, yes, we should consider that we can't criminalize consensual behavior as long as no one is being harmed," she said."
"2018 Supreme Court decision cleared the way and among those pushing for sports betting is Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican successful in a blue state and who has publicly teased a primary challenge to Trump.
"The odds are good that we're going to have sports betting," Hogan joked in January."

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Memorial service for Martin Shubik today at Yale

I'm in New Orleans today, which I think Martin would have enjoyed, but if you are in New Haven, here's the Yale announcement:

Memorial service for economist Martin Shubik to be held March 30

"A service honoring the life of the late economist Martin Shubik will be held on Saturday, March 30 at 11:30 a.m., at the Graduate Club at 155 Elm St.  
Shubik, who died on Aug. 22 at the age of 92, was the Seymour H. Knox Professor Emeritus of Mathematical Institutional Economics at the Yale School of Management. He had been on the Yale faculty since 1963, specializing in game theory, defense analysis, and the theory of money and financial institutions.
Here is a brief July 2018 "Apologia" that Martin apparently wrote shortly before  his death in August:
Martin Shubik, July 2018

Here is my earlier post:

Thursday, August 23, 2018  Martin Shubik, 1926-2018

Friday, March 29, 2019

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) 2019 in New Orleans, March 28-30

As the last stop on a lecture tour at four Southern locations this week, I'm looking forward to participating this afternoon and tomorrow in the PPE 2019 conference.

I hope to both hear about familiar topics from unfamiliar angles, and to hear about new and wonderful things in the intersection of P,P and E.

Here is the whole program, and here are some Friday and Saturday sessions I'm already looking forward to (airline arrivals permitting...):

Fairness in Voluntary Exchanges
Eric MacGilvray, Moderator
“Bargaining Based Fairness,” Ben Ferguson
“Exploitation and Unfair Pricing,” Matthew Zwolinski
“Democratic Exchange,” Thomas Christiano
Room: Storyville I

Political Philosophy Meets Experimental Philosophy
Nick Cowan, Moderator
“Gender Equality in the Australian Workplace,” Holly Lawford-Smith
“Feasibility and Normative Encroachment,” Nicholas Southwood
“The Social Epistemology of Political Discourse: A Case Study Using Twitter
Activity,” Mark Alfano
Room: Storyville I

Matching Mechanisms and Algorithmic Fairness in Policy Design
Alex Schaefer, Moderator
Participants: “Unenviable Matches, Priorities, and Preferences: A Case Study of Matching Mechanisms,” Zoe Hitzig
“Preferential Mistreatment: Against Group Preference-Based Algorithmic Fairness,”
Lily Hu“Bridging the ‘Normative Gap’: Matching Mechanisms and Social Justice,” Kate Vredenburgh
Room: Buddy Bolden 28

Repugnant Markets
Ann Cudd, Moderator
Participants: “Does Paid Plasma Crowd-out Unpaid Blood Donations?” Peter Jaworski andWilliam English
“Paying for Plasma: Commodification, Exploitation, and Profit,” Vida Panitch and L. Chad Horne
“Paying for Kidneys? A Randomized Survey and Choice Experiment,” Nicola Lacetera
Room: Mahalia B

and here's my talk, just before drinks:

6-7 Repugnant Transactions and Forbidden Markets
Al Roth, Keynote Speaker
Room: Storyville I/II 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

"My evolution as an economist," at Trinity University in San Antonio

I'll be speaking at Trinity University today. Here's the announcement:


And here's an accompanying news story by by Danyal Tahseen ‘19.

Nobel Prize Economist to Discuss Stable Allocations and Market Design
Alvin E. Roth to present at Trinity’s Nobel Economist Lecture Series

"Alvin E. Roth is the co-recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics along with his colleague, Lloyd S. Shapley. As part of Trinity University’s Nobel Economist Lecture Series, Roth will speak on Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. in the Stieren Theater, located in the Ruth Taylor Theater Building. Seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis; tickets or reservations are not required.

"His free and public presentation is a continuation of Trinity’s ongoing Nobel Economist Lecture Series, “My Evolution as an Economist.” The series was started in 1984 by the late E.M. Stevens Distinguished Professor of Economics William Breit."

In connection with the lecture, I'll be contributing an essay to the 7th edition of the MIT Press volume Lives of the LaureatesEdited by Roger W. Spencer and David A. Macpherson.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

David Kaserman Memorial Lecture at Auburn University

Today I'll present a lecture in honor of David Kaserman, an Auburn U. economist who fought a long struggle with kidney disease, and who also wrote about the shortage of transplantable kidneys, and about how this was related to the legal ban on compensation for donors.

Kaserman Memorial Lecture in Economics

"On Wednesday, March 27th, the Department of Economics will present the David Kaserman Memorial Lecture, a program in honor of Professor Dave Kaserman. The annual lecture is sponsored by an endowment established in Professor Kaserman's memory. This year our speaker is one of the world’s leading intellectuals, Harvard and Stanford professor Al Roth, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2012. The lecture is at 2 PM in the auditorium of the JCS Museum, and is open to the public.  Roth will speak on his work on the kidney shortage..."

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Congratulations to Claudia Goldin: BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award

Here are the first two paragraphs of the announcement...

The BBVA Foundation recognizes Claudia Goldin for pioneering economic analysis of the gender gap
"The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Economics, Finance and Management category has gone in this eleventh edition to the American economic historian Claudia Goldin “for her groundbreaking contributions to the historical analysis of the role of women in the economy, and for her analysis of the reasons behind gender inequality.”

"Goldin “is credited with founding the field of empirical analysis of the gender gap,” remarked the committee on announcing its decision, starting with her seminal 1990 publication Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women. This hugely influential book examined the roots of wage inequality between men and women, questioning the conventional explanations.

Game theory symposium at Kennesaw State

I'll be speaking at Kennesaw State University in Georgia this morning (and spending this week giving a set of lectures elsewhere in the South). Here's a link:

Symposium on the Foundations and Applications of Game Theory with Nobel Laureate Alvin Roth
Organized by the Bagwell Center for the Study of Markets and Economic Opportunity
Tuesday, March 26, 2019, Kennesaw State University, Prillaman Hall 1000


James Boudreau, Assistant Professor of Economics, Kennesaw State University
Sean Ellermeyer, Professor of Mathematics, Kennesaw State University
Brett Katzman, Professor of Economics, Kennesaw State University
Timothy Mathews, Professor of Economics, Kennesaw State University
Alvin Roth, Professor of Economics, Stanford University


“Overview of Game Theory”
"Solution Concepts for Non-Cooperative Games"
"Repeated Non-Cooperative Games"
"A Case Study in Cooperative Game Theory: The Stable Matching Problem"
“Who Gets What – And Why”


Monday, March 25, 2019

Followup on the latest Freakonomics kidney exchange chain

Earlier this month I blogged about a kidney exchange chain at Virginia Mason Hospital, in Seattle, initiated by a non-directed donor who had heard an interview about kidney exchange on Freakonomics.  Subsequently, my colleague Elena Cryst, whose dad is a transplant nephrologist at that hospital, sent her the email below about a short talk he'd prepared, which they have given me permission to reproduce with minor edits. (They also note that "the participants OK’d sharing this so no HIPA violations.")

Dr. Cryst writes:

"I’m a transplant nephrologist, and  I’m  sharing this story on the insistence of these four patients who want to get their story out and encourage others to participate in organ donation and increase the options for kidney transplants in our country”

This is a photo of 4 people – I hope you can see them as you read this.

Three out of four of these folks in the picture just so happened to have appointments in my Monday AM clinic.  I’ve been taking care of kidney transplant patients for thirty years, but by the end of clinic, I was astounded by seeing how much this meant for each one of them and the different reasons why.  As this morning went on I heard this story from three of the four points of view.  It very much took me by surprise how much had changed for all four.…  It was just another day in the office, but this story is striking and they all wanted to share it with everyone in hopes more people can receive transplants.


THE STORIES:  First with hat on backwards is DC my patient.  A naturally shy and private person.   Happiest I’ve seen him in three years but has had many disappointments.   It has been an emotional roller coaster, as three years ago he thought he was passing a kidney stone- only to learn he had an advanced kidney disorder and soon would either need to get a transplant  or start on dialysis.  There had been lots of struggles to get to the point of transplant…. one by one, donors came forward but were disqualified due to minor health issues.  Finally one did  get through testing and qualify to donate, only to find out she was not a match.  He was devastated again.  After working with our program, we were poised for a paired donor exchange but with time running out…we needed a non-directed donor to step forward.  If someone could donate for DC, his donor would give a kidney for the next person on our waiting list and he would not have to start the process of dialysis. 

Next to DC’s left is Steve, healthy tugboat pilot who commutes to his home inland and on the way listens to lots of podcasts.  Freakonomics Radio had one about Al Roth, a Nobel prize winning economist at Stanford who researches how to create markets for things that don’t have a price.  He was the economist who worked to redesign the resident matching program to accommodate couples in the 1990’s and was fascinated by the challenge of how to allocate kidneys from live donors.  This is another problem of how to make a market for something that could not be exchanged for cash.  He and colleagues designed the system and did the math.  And won the Nobel prize!  Steve caught on to a few facts in the story – like the huge number of potential living donors in this country, and the benefit that could be afforded to those waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor.  The fact that the number of such paired donor exchange transplants has grown from only 2  in 2000 to 1000 in 2018, and said sign me up.  His generosity and courage started this chain of events.  Al Roth’s work is changing the way we are doing kidney transplants at my hospital and bringing in more and more living donors together with recipients they don’t know. The process was hugely important to Steve and it was icing on the cake that he was able to meet DC after it was done.  They all mutually agreed to make the process open rather than confidential which was their personal choice.

Next is Debbie from Ukqiagvik Alaska (formally Barrow)  – the literal ‘end of the earth’ the northern most point in the USA above the arctic circle in Alaska.   Debbie is an Alaska native who toughed it out with barely enough renal function for many  years but time was running out for her as well.  She was at the very top of the waiting list and she was waiting for a deceased donor kidney at our far away transplant center. The logistics of urgent travel to a faraway city fast enough to get a kidney transplant from a deceased donor -- while the clock was ticking -- made it much more better for her to have a living donor transplant that could be scheduled.  As you can tell Debbie has been delighted with her new kidney.  She is a long way from home for a few months, but enjoying the challenges of being in the city, even trying foods not part of her diet - like cucumbers (not my favorite” she says) - not often available above the arctic circle!  She is here with family for a few months recovering and adapting to having normal kidney function again.

Next is Wendy – Journalist, community organizer and friend of DC.  She did gently insist that he let her get tested to donate.  He was apprehensive and certainly did not want to ask her.  But, as usual, Wendy prevailed.   In exchange her kidney went to Debbie who now feels better than she has in years.  Wendy is being ‘adopted’ by the women in Ukqiagvik and in clinic that morning, she was wearing the traditional hoodie blouse with big pockets that Debbie’s sisters back home had specially made for Wendy.  She is thinking about how to make the trip up north to see her new family of friends.  It was Wendy who also gently admonished me for not doing a better job of telling our story to others.  She strongly felt that we need to point out that her life and Steve’s are forever changed for the better - -  as well as the obvious benefit for DC and Debby. 

Although this is the kind of work we do every day, we would like to do many more living donor transplants for people and take more people off the waiting lists and out of the dialysis units.  There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of people who contribute, but we can scale it up.  The more scheduled procedures we do, opposed to deceased donor surgeries which are by necessity emergency surgeries, the greater our impact  can be. Each living kidney transplant also frees the deceased donor kidney to go to someone else - in effect doubling the benefit.  Thanks to Al Roth, there is now a new market for getting our willing donors together with recipients they do not know.  We always respect privacy and our default is to keep this process of ‘entering the market’ safe and anonymous.  But, as in this case, the participants can decide to share their experience, meet each other and . . . as Wendy said, “get the word out.”   In fact this photo captured the moment after surgery where this group organized a first meeting on their own and went off for lunch.  As a kidney transplant physician, I know we have the systems in place to grow this work.  Facilitating living kidney donation benefits not only more recipients, but it positively  changes lives of these donors.  It really positively affects lives of everyone involved. . .even the doctors like me…and I bet even the economists! 

Cyrus Cryst MD FASN

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Special issue of NRL in honor of Uri Rothblum, February 2019

Occasionally an Operations journal can bring memories flooding back: here's a special issue in honor of my old friend Uri Rothblum, who passed away in 2012. (We met in 1971, when we entered the Ph.D. program in Operations Research at Stanford.)

 The Journal Naval Research Logistics 
Volume 66, Issue 1, Special Issue:Uriel Rothblum, Pages: 1-102, February 2019

Here is the introduction, and the first paper, coauthored by Uri...


  • Pages: 3
  • First Published: 26 December 2018


Free Access

Constant risk aversion in stochastic contests with exponential completion times

  • Pages: 4-14
  • First Published: 24 January 2017
The previous issue was in honor of Pete Veinott, Uri's Ph.D. advisor:
Volume 65, Issue 8 Special Issue:Pete Veinott 


Here are other posts of mine remembering Uri.

The journal used to be called the Naval Research Logistics Quarterly, and I published three papers there from 1977 to 1982.

Do cashless stores hamper access by the poor?

Are cashless stores discriminatory?  There's concern about that in Philadelphia, Massachusetts and elswhere.  The WSJ has the story:

Philadelphia Is First U.S. City to Ban Cashless Stores
Lawmakers move to maintain access to marketplace for lower-income consumers; Amazon and other businesses express concern about limits on innovation

"Philadelphia is the first major U.S. city to ban cashless stores, placing it at the forefront of a debate that pits retail innovation against lawmakers trying to protect all citizens’ access to the marketplace.

"Starting in July, Philadelphia’s new law will require most retail stores to accept cash. A New York City councilman is pushing similar legislation there, and New Jersey’s legislature recently passed a bill banning cashless stores statewide. A spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, declined to comment on whether he would sign it. Massachusetts has gone the farthest on the issue and is the only state that requires retailers to accept cash.
"Businesses that have gone cashless point to greater efficiency for employees, who don’t have to make change or count cash at closing time, and improved safety because workers don’t have to carry large bank deposits.

"But backers of measures forcing stores to accept cash say they worry about people who don’t have credit or debit cards. Supporters also say some consumers prefer to pay with currency for privacy reasons.

“I think it’s more the future than a fad, and that’s why there is a need for a legislative response,” said New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Democrat, who is sponsoring legislation to ban cashless stores."

See also:
San Francisco could ban Amazon’s cashier-free stores
"San Francisco is considering a ban on cashless Amazon stores as it weighs a bill that would make it one of a growing list of cities forbidding cashless retailers.
Just this week, New Jersey followed Philadelphia’s lead in signing into law a cashless store ban. Lawmakers argue that cashless stores can effectively discriminate against low-income consumers, who may not have a bank account or credit card. But businesses say going cashless is good for consumers and reduces the risk of robbery and the ability to evade taxes."

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Adam Bingaman and kidney exchange are celebrated (once again) in San Antonio

Kidney exchange is thriving in San Antonio: here are two stories celebrating Adam Binghaman's work at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital:

Adam Bingaman, M.D.; Medical Director of Solid Organ Transplants, HCA Healthcare; Director, Abdominal Transplant Program, Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital; Transplant Surgeon, Director Live Donor and Incompatible Kidney Transplant Programs, Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital

The gift of life: HCA Healthcare leads nation in live donor kidney transplants
FEBRUARY 22, 2019
“Paired exchange has provided remarkable opportunities for the kidney transplant community,” says Dr. Bingaman. “During the first year in 2008, we did a total of 10 paired donations. Now, fast forward to 2019, we are closing in on our five hundredth paired exchange transplant at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital.”
The Match Game: DR. ADAM BINGAMAN has created a groundbreaking
program that, for the 30 million people suffering from kidney disease, is very good news  
by timothy dumas, photography by hulya

Here are all my posts referring to Dr. Bingaman:

Friday, March 22, 2019

School choice in Denver, 2019 report

Here's the latest report from Denver's unified school choice:
Record High Participation In District’s Round 1 of SchoolChoice
Mar. 21, 2019
DPS marks eighth year of providing equitable, transparent enrollment through unified system
Denver –Thousands of Denver families took an active role in selecting the best-fit school for their student during another successful SchoolChoice enrollment season. Denver Public Schools (DPS) this week sent out over 27,000 emails and text messages notifying families of their students’ school assignments for 2019-20. Round 2 of SchoolChoice opens on April 3.
The goal of SchoolChoice is to level the playing field by giving all DPS students access to a quality education, regardless of their address or socio-economic background. And SchoolChoice is succeeding. This year, SchoolChoice placed 92% of kindergarteners and 95% of sixth-graders in their first-, second- or third-choice school. Ninth-graders were placed in one of their top three choices 94% of the time. For all three grade levels, match rates for first or second choices were also strong: 89% percent for kindergarten; and 93% for sixth and ninth.
In a continuing effort to provide the best service to Denver families, DPS shifted the timing of the Choice window to close in mid-February, allowing the district to release results nearly a month earlier than in 2018. And the district opened a new walk-in enrollment center in the southwest area to better support families. The DPS SchoolChoice process allows families to rank their top school choices on a single online application. The district then runs a computer algorithm designed to maximize the number of students getting their most-preferred option, subject to availability. The system is based on the 2012-Nobel Prize-winning work of Stanford and Harvard professor Dr. Alvin Roth.
DPS is one of the only large districts in the country in which all its schools, whether traditional, innovation or charter, participate in its choice program. Prior to 2011-12, families had to complete different applications for different schools on different timelines. SchoolChoice is primarily for families with students who will be transitioning into a new school next year, including those entering kindergarten, middle school and high school. The process is also open to families who are not necessarily in a transition year but would like the opportunity to choose a new school for their student.
Because virtually every school is an option in this single enrollment process, DPS provides families with the tools they need to adequately research schools and make informed decisions. These tools include the annual Great Schools Enrollment Guides, School Finder online school search tool, the Great Schools Regional Expo series, and individual school tours.
SchoolChoice is not limited to the Round 1 window that closed Feb. 20. Round 2 of SchoolChoice begins April 3 and will provide opportunities for families who did not participate in Round 1, or who participated in Round 1 but want to re-explore their options or who are new to DPS.
SchoolChoice Data
SchoolChoice participation rates by transition grades:
Kindergarten – 89%
Sixth-grade – 84%
Ninth-grade – 76%
TOTAL – 84%
SchoolChoice Match rates:
Grade2019: 1stChoice2018: 1stChoiceChange2019: 1stor 2nd2018: 1stor 2ndChange2019: 1st-3rd2018: 1st-3rdChange

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Dr. Oscar Salvatierra, Jr. (1935 - 2019)

Here's the Stanford obituary of the pioneering kidney transplant surgeon:

Pioneering pediatric kidney transplant surgeon Oscar Salvatierra dies at 83
Oscar Salvatierra founded Stanford’s pediatric kidney transplant program, helped write the national legislation that regulates organ transplants, and conducted research in kidney transplantation.

"Oscar Salvatierra Jr., MD, professor emeritus of surgery and of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a leader in the effort to enact national legislation regulating organ donation, died March 16 at his home in Menlo Park, California.  He was 83.


"A pediatric kidney transplant surgeon, Salvatierra was the physician most involved in the development and passage of the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, the legislation that established a nationwide network to enable the fair and equitable allocation of donor organs to patients across the country.

"The law, on which Salvatierra collaborated with then-Congressman Al Gore, also banned buying and selling donor organs. It has served as a model for laws regulating organ transplantation around the world.
"Salvatierra developed methods that enabled small children to be successfully transplanted with adult-sized kidneys, making it possible for many children to receive kidneys donated by adult donors, including their relatives. He also pioneered an immune-suppression protocol for pediatric kidney transplant recipients that avoided steroid medications, which have harmful side effects in children, such as severe growth suppression."

School choice in Washington D.C., by Thomas Toch in the Washington Post magazine

In the Washington Post magazine, Thomas Toch writes about the accomplishments and limitations of the school choice system in Washington D.C., and school choice more generally. He's a thoughtful observer of the education scene, and the director of FutureEd. (I gather that the piece is only online now and will be in print on Saturday...)

The Lottery That’s Revolutionizing D.C. Schools
by Thomas Toch.  Photos by Evelyn Hockstein, MARCH 20, 2019

The whole thing is worth reading.  Here's the concluding paragraph:

"In forcing traditional public schools to compete more directly, the common enrollment system has pressed them to strengthen themselves, as Henderson suggests. It has made school choice fairer and more efficient. And it has changed the dynamic between Washington’s public and private schools. Families are finding public Montessori programs, dual-language opportunities like Noah’s and other options that were offered mainly in the private sector in the past. But the long wait lists at some schools and empty spots at others that the My School DC lottery has produced make clear that the success of school choice in Washington will ultimately require creating more strong schools. “If we don’t have capacity in A-plus schools for all the kids, then some kids aren’t going to go to A-plus schools,” Roth told me. “No system of choice can fix that.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Frequencies of medically assisted death, in jurisdictions where it is legal

From the Lancet:
Regulation of assisted suicide limits the number of assisted deaths
Gian Domenico Borasio, Ralf J Jox, Claudia Gamondi
Published:February 20, 2019

"Several countries and US states have recently legalised euthanasia, assisted suicide, or both, including Canada and California, USA. In 2017, more than 13 000 patients died through either method of assisted death in countries where these practices are permitted. Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legal in the Netherlands and Belgium since 2002, whereas assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since 1918 and in Oregon, USA, since 1997.

"In assisted suicide, patients take the lethal drug themselves, whereas doctors administer the drug in euthanasia. In 2012, this appeared to be a main reason for the higher frequency of assisted deaths in the Netherlands and Belgium, compared with Oregon and Switzerland. Yet data from the past 5 years suggest that the lack of legislation in Switzerland could also explain the higher frequency of assisted suicide, particularly since an increasing number of patients without terminal illness obtain permission for assisted suicide in Switzerland. By contrast, the lower frequency in Oregon might be explained by the requirement of a maximum life expectancy of 6 months and by the requirement that patients obtain a lethal dose from the pharmacy for auto-administration. On average, 36% of these patients in Oregon end up not using the lethal drug and die of their illness"

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Matching civil servants to positions (and career tracks) in India

Stanford's Ashutosh Thakur writes about civil service matching in India:
Rethinking cadre allocation procedures in civil services

 "The allocation procedure of All-India Services’ officers to states is an important aspect of personnel administration in the public sector. This article shows that a change in allocation policy in 2008 resulted in lower quality officers being systematically assigned to disadvantaged states. It examines the causes of these imbalances and impact on State capacity and development outcomes, and explores alternate mechanisms."

Monday, March 18, 2019

Alan Krueger (1960-2019)

I was shaken today by the news of Alan Krueger's death:

Alan B. Krueger, Economic Aide to Clinton and Obama, Is Dead at 58

He was a leading light in the study of labor markets (from the effects of minimum wage, to the micro and macro returns of education).  He was also a leading policy architect, not least in his service as the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama.  (I interacted with him briefly when he was in that role, on matters concerning transplantation policy.)

I'm reminded that many Americans of my generation encountered the poem Richard Corey as part of the elementary school curriculum.

Palgiarism detection, student data, and Ed Tech: the purchase of Turnitin

Here's a story that caught my eye in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, about the purchase of Turnitin, known so far primarily for plagiarism detection software:

Why a Plagiarism-Detection Company Is Now a Billion-Dollar Business

"Stamping out student plagiarism is big business. How big? $1.735 billion, to be exact. That’s the price that Advance, a privately held media, communications, and technology company, will pay to purchase Turnitin, the 800-pound gorilla of plagiarism-detection services.
"While its roots are in plagiarism detection, Turnitin actually has a broader portfolio. For example, it owns Gradescope, which offers AI-assisted grading tools, and Lightside Labs, which uses machine learning to provide feedback on students’ writing.

Chris Caren, chief executive of Turnitin, said the company’s next step is to become a platform for colleges and high schools to submit all types of student assignments, digital or on paper. It would then use AI to help instructors review that work to, among other things, spot at-risk students and devise remediation plans. The company is also developing Turnitin’s software to branch out into the STEM fields and detect plagiarism in coding, for example. In other words, it hopes to become a one-stop shop for all sorts of tech-driven teaching services."

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Congratulations to Ed Glaeser, Scott Kominers, Mike Luca and Nikhil Naik (EI best paper award)

Congratulations to the authors of this fine paper, published in Economic Inquiry.

2018 Best EI Article Award Announced!
LIMITATIONS OF IMPROVED MEASURES OF URBAN LIFE -- Volume 56, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages: 114-137
by Edward L. Glaeser, Scott Duke Kominers, Michael Luca, and Nikhil Naik

"New, “big data” sources allow measurement of city characteristics and outcome variables at higher collection frequencies and more granular geographic scales than ever before. However, big data will not solve large urban social science questions on its own. Big urban data has the most value for the study of cities when it allows measurement of the previously opaque, or when it can be coupled with exogenous shocks to people or place. We describe a number of new urban data sources and illustrate how they can be used to improve the study and function of cities. We first show how Google Street View images can be used to predict income in New York City, suggesting that similar imagery data can be used to map wealth and poverty in previously unmeasured areas of the developing world. We then discuss how survey techniques can be improved to better measure willingness to pay for urban amenities. Finally, we explain how Internet data is being used to improve the quality of city services."

The paper's publication history says something about publishing, on line versus in print, at least in Economics.

Publication History
  • 27 November 2017
  • 12 July 2016
  • 23 February 2016
  • 23 November 2015

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Matching refugees to host country locations

My political science colleagues at Stanford have been thinking fruitfully about how to match refugees to locations in the countries to which they have been granted asylum:

Matching Refugees to Host Country LocationsBased on Preferences and Outcomes
∗ Avidit Acharya† Kirk Bansak‡ Jens Hainmueller§ February 21, 2019

Abstract: Facilitating the integration of refugees has become a major policy challenge in many host countries in the context of the global displacement crisis. One of the first policy decisions host countries make in the resettlement process is the assignment of refugees to locations within the country. We develop a mechanism to match refugees to locations in a way that takes into account their expected integration outcomes and their preferences over where to be settled. Our proposal is based on a priority mechanism that allows the government first to specify a threshold g for the minimum level of expected integration success that should be achieved. Refugees are then matched to locations based on their preferences subject to meeting the government’s specified threshold. The mechanism is both strategy-proof and constrained efficient in that it always generates a matching that is not Pareto dominated by any other matching that respects the government’s threshold. We demonstrate our approach using simulations and a real-world application to refugee data from the United States.
Here's an earlier paper by a group including some of the same authors
 2018 Jan 19;359(6373):325-329. doi: 10.1126/science.aao4408.

Improving refugee integration through data-driven algorithmic assignment.


Developed democracies are settling an increased number of refugees, many of whom face challenges integrating into host societies. We developed a flexible data-driven algorithm that assigns refugees across resettlement locations to improve integration outcomes. The algorithm uses a combination of supervised machine learning and optimal matching to discover and leverage synergies between refugee characteristics and resettlement sites. The algorithm was tested on historical registry data from two countries with different assignment regimes and refugee populations, the United States and Switzerland. Our approach led to gains of roughly 40 to 70%, on average, in refugees' employment outcomes relative to current assignment practices. This approach can provide governments with a practical and cost-efficient policy tool that can be immediately implemented within existing institutional structures.

Friday, March 15, 2019

NRMP Match Day, 2019

Today is match day, when imminent medical grads find out where they'll be starting residencies in July.

Here's the NRMP's press release:
Thousands Of Resident Physician Applicants Celebrate NRMP Match Results
2019 Main Residency Match is largest on record with 44,600 registered applicants and more than 35,000 positions offered

Here are some data tables, including this one on couples:

Here's an article in Stat reflecting on some current issues of marketplace maintenence, related to what certainly seems to have become excessive pre-match interviewing:

Ideas for easing medical students’ Match Day ‘frenzy’

"The National Residency Matching Program is an admirable invention. Now more than 30 years old, it is the system through which medical students get their first paid, professional positions. It corrected past abuses that took advantage of students, often pressuring them to accept binding offers within 24 hours of a residency interview. The Match is sufficiently noteworthy that its creator, Alvin Ross, won a Nobel Prize in economics for his work on matching theory. His algorithm continues to place half of U.S. medical school graduates in their first-choice programs. Other professions and selection processes could be improved by using a similar matching system.
Yet the Match and what leads up to it are having growing pains. Medical students are applying to increasing numbers of residency programs, sometimes to all of the programs in a field. Residency program directors are flooded with applications, and have trouble identifying which students are truly interested.
"Otolaryngology (also known as ear, nose, and throat) offers a telling illustration of this problem, and a potential solution that failed. In 2010, the average student interested in an otolaryngology residency applied to 47 programs, and the average residency program received 200 applications from U.S. medical students — to fill just two to six positions. By 2015, this increased to 64 applications per student and 275 applications per program.
"The program directors attempted to exert some control over application inflation by asking students to write a paragraph about their interest in the program they were applying for. This reduced applications, but also backfired. In 2017, the number of applications fell back to 200 per program, but 10 programsfailed to get the number of residents they needed. The otolaryngology program directors removed the supplemental requirement and applications jumped back up to 278.
"The Match was once a brilliant solution that everyone in medicine was proud of. There are still lessons to be learned from it for other selection processes, including undergraduate admissions. But if we — students, advising deans, and residency program directors — do not come together and work on solutions, we risk losing the Match’s great many advantages."