Monday, November 30, 2020

Philippe Steiner on matching and romance, and transplants

 The French economic sociologist Philippe Steiner, who studies (among other things) how markets and gift giving can coexist, has a short piece about dating platforms.

Plateformes d’appariement, rencontres amoureuses et mondes marchands ("Matching platforms, romantic encounters and trading worlds") by Philippe Steiner, Dans Revue Française de Socio-Économie 2020/2 (n° 25), pages 161 à 166

Via google translate:

"Two elements can serve to close this brief reflection on the meeting of economic sociology and the sociology of sexuality.

"The appearance of a commercial intermediary modifies the social conditions of the romantic encounter. However, is it of a commercial nature? The use of the term matrimonial market, in which it is a question of "making a choice, maximizing your options and using calculation techniques in terms of costs and profits, and efficiency" [Illouz, 2006, p. 252], might lead one to believe. This interpretation is doubtful: if the market implies the idea of ​​choice, the converse is not true. The market relationship is characterized by monetary power, that is, the ability to obtain the desired good by paying more - it is not for nothing that auction technology is often taken as the example of the market. Also, once the relationship connecting individuals to the platform has brought together two potential partners, it is not the ability to pay that will make the match between them."


"Finally, the matching technologies that are at work in the platforms are not necessarily associated with the market world [Steiner, 2016, chap. 7]. Matching platforms using deferred acceptance or optimal trading cycle technologies can serve as well to reproduce the market functioning as to enable non-market matches. Alvin Roth's economic engineering applies to the labor market (pairing of medical interns and hospitals) as well as to organ transplantation, in which the commercial relationship is banned by national laws as well as by international declarations of professionals."


The following interview may also be of interest to readers of this blog:

“Organic” Gift-Giving and Organ Transplantation, the Development of Economic Sociology and Morality in a Super-Monetized World: An Interview with Philippe Steiner Journal of Economic Sociology, 2014, vol. 15, issue 1, 11-19

 "when I studied the issue of organ transplantation, in full agreement with Healy’s approach, the organizational setting appeared to be very, very important. Accordingly, organ donation is a gift that individual actors provide to organizational actors. And then, with this gift, the organization conducts an extensive and very important process to ensure that the kidney does not convey illness, AIDS, cancer. In addition, the degree of compatibility between the organ and the body is checked. And they do this very rapidly. Then, they allocate the gift to a new individual actor. However, the important thing, in my opinion, is that between the first individual actor and the second one there is a large organization. More precisely, a plurality of organizations. This is something that I refer to in my present book as  organizational gift-giving”. To parallel the Durkheimian distinction between mechanical and organic solidarity, I would call this “organic” gift-giving and thus draw a distinction between the usual story about people in Melanesia who give gifts according to Malinowski and Mauss. 


" I am trying to map gift-giving, inheritance, and the exchange of symbolic goods, which are at the frontiers of usual market exchanges, to provide a broad view of what exchange at large means in our present society. Considering market exchange as a limited element of all the transactions in the world is my way to escape this super-monetized world.


"Social forces are pushing in the direction of a fullblown market society, whereas others are resisting and devoting their energy to maintaining a frontier between market exchanges and other forms of exchange. In that sense, political issues remain central, as in Polanyi’s time. To return to my research on organ transplantation, I would like to stress that the last chapter of the book concerns what is usually referred to as transplant tourism — is it good to have transplant tourism? Should it be fully legalized? Is the creation of a biomarket in India for Americans suffering from final-stage kidney failure a good thing? You must say yes or no. You cannot escape a political decision. And my answer was “Definitely, no biomarkets”. However, of course, this is not an easy position because as you know there are individuals who are dying because of the lack of kidneys. Therefore, this (response) is uncertain, difficult. However, in the end, not giving an answer is a boon to those pushing for the commodification of body parts. So, finally, I decided to stay on the Maussian–Polanyian side — “limit the market.”

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Market design in Philosophy of the Social Sciences, by Philippe van Basshuysen

Philippe van Baßhuysen has an article now online in the journal Philosophy of the Social Sciences, focusing on market design, and taking as his main example the design of the labor clearinghouse for American doctors, the National Resident Matching Program. (He also includes some remarks about spectrum auctions.)  He comments a bit on the gap between how some parts of the philosophy of science literature think about market design, and how market designers thing about it, and his article brings some of the latter thought to the attention of philosophers.

How to Build an Institution, by Philippe van Basshuysen

Philosophy of the Social Sciences. November 2020. doi:10.1177/0048393120971545.

"Abstract: How should institutions be designed that “work” in bringing about desirable social outcomes? I study a case of successful institutional design—the redesign of the National Resident Matching Program—and argue that economists assume three roles when designing an institution, each of which complements the other two: first, the designer combines positive and normative modeling to formalize policy goals and to design possible mechanisms for bringing them about. Second, the engineer refines the design by conducting experiments and computational analyses. Third, the plumber implements the design in the real world and mends it as needed."

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Convalescent plasma for Covid-19 may not be as effective as hoped

 Here's a recent article from the New England Journal of Medicine: they conclude that treatment of Covid-19 patients with convalescent plasma is no better than a placebo treatment (for a group of seriously ill patients with over a 10% mortality rate).

A Randomized Trial of Convalescent Plasma in Covid-19 Severe Pneumonia

by Ventura A. Simonovich, M.D., Leandro D. Burgos Pratx, M.D., Paula Scibona, M.D., María V. Beruto, M.D., Marcelo G. Vallone, M.D., Carolina Vázquez, M.D., Nadia Savoy, M.D., Diego H. Giunta, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Lucía G. Pérez, M.D., Marisa del L. Sánchez, M.D., Andrea Vanesa Gamarnik, Ph.D., Diego S. Ojeda, Ph.D., et al., for the PlasmAr Study Group

RESULTS: A total of 228 patients were assigned to receive convalescent plasma and 105 to receive placebo. The median time from the onset of symptoms to enrollment in the trial was 8 days (interquartile range, 5 to 10), and hypoxemia was the most frequent severity criterion for enrollment. The infused convalescent plasma had a median titer of 1:3200 of total SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (interquartile range, 1:800 to 1:3200]. No patients were lost to follow-up. At day 30 day, no significant difference was noted between the convalescent plasma group and the placebo group in the distribution of clinical outcomes according to the ordinal scale (odds ratio, 0.83 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.52 to 1.35; P=0.46). Overall mortality was 10.96% in the convalescent plasma group and 11.43% in the placebo group, for a risk difference of −0.46 percentage points (95% CI, −7.8 to 6.8). Total SARS-CoV-2 antibody titers tended to be higher in the convalescent plasma group at day 2 after the intervention. Adverse events and serious adverse events were similar in the two groups.

CONCLUSIONS: No significant differences were observed in clinical status or overall mortality between patients treated with convalescent plasma and those who received placebo. 

HT: Irene Wapnir

Friday, November 27, 2020

Market Design Job Market Candidates in Econ and Computer Science (or a combination of the two) from SIGecom Exchanges

 Assaf Romm writes:

"The editors of SIGecom Exchanges were kind enough to host on their November issue a list that I compiled containing profiles of market designers currently on the job market. The profiles contain links to their homepage and CVs, and a short summary of their research and job market papers. There are twelve excellent candidates with very interesting papers!

"The list of candidate profiles is here. "

And here's the list of people described at greater length at the link--you could hire one of them.

Delacretaz, David, Goldner, Kira,  Gonczarowski, Yannai A., Imamura, Kenzo, Koren, Moran, Larroucau, Tomas, Qian, Pengyu, Raghavan, Madhav, Sayedahmed, Dilek, Sullivan, Colin. Thakur, Ashutosh , Vohra, Akhil.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Madhav Raghavan on transparency (and on the European job market)

Madhav Raghavan is completing a postdoc at the University of Lausanne this year (working with Bettina Klaus), and is on the job market, primarily in Europe.  I got to know him when he visited us briefly at Stanford this year (in person, before having to retreat back to Switzerland, as Covid surged...)

His job market paper concerns the verifiability of the algorithms that run centralized clearinghouses, and how that can be improved by changing the kinds of feedback that participants receive.

Transparency in Centralised Allocation: Theory and Experiment  by Rustamdjan Hakimov and Madhav Raghavan

Abstract: Many algorithmic allocation mechanisms suffer from a verifiability problem: participants cannot check if their assignments are correct. This problem is compounded if there are suspicions that the designer has deviated from the true allocation. We formalise these concerns and propose solutions in an information-based framework. A participant's assignment is `verifiable' by her if any other assignment contradicts her information. A stronger requirement is `transparency', where the designer cannot deviate from the true allocation without being detected. We show how the communication of `terminal-cutoffs' and the use of `predictable' multi-stage mechanisms each provide information to participants that verifies their assignments. Even though the information from predictable mechanisms and terminal-cutoffs can each be manipulated by a dishonest designer without detection, in our main result we show that they nevertheless achieve transparency if used together. We suggest transparent environments for use in school admissions, single-object auctions and house allocation. We support the effectiveness of our solutions via a school admissions laboratory experiment.


The paper develops the theory in some generality, and also focuses on the particular case of the deferred acceptance algorithm, which is the subject of the experiment they report.  

If you're hiring, he's worth a close look.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Bob Wilson and Paul Milgrom, interviewed about their work

 Stanford News has the story:

The bid picture: Stanford economists explain the ideas behind their 2020 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences

"If designed correctly, auctions can distribute resources fairly, according to Stanford economists Robert Wilson and Paul Milgrom. The pair were awarded the 2020 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats."

Here's the video:

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Paying for plasma to be legal in Alberta

 Reason magazine has the story:

Canada Inches Closer to Allowing More People To Be Paid for Plasma--For too long, our northern neighbors have depended on plasma imported from the U.S. to meet demand. With the passage of new legislation in Alberta, this may change.  by LIZ WOLFE 

"Albertans will soon be able to receive payment for their blood and plasma donations. Bill 204, the Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act, was introduced by Tany Yao, a member of the legislative assembly for Alberta's provincial government, and passed in the legislature this week. It must now get royal assent—a mere formality—for it to become law. The bill overturns a 2017 prohibition on paid plasma, and will allow private companies to pay plasma donors for their efforts. If they so choose, people will still be able to donate blood and plasma without receiving compensation via Canadian Blood Services.


"United Nurses of Alberta's president Heather Smith told Global News that "the government is putting its ideology and desire to support profiteers above what is actually safe for Albertans and Canadians." Elsewhere she said that "donating blood should not be viewed as a business venture."

HT: Peter Jaworski

Monday, November 23, 2020

Colin Sullivan on organ transplant policy (and on the job market this year)

 Colin Sullivan is completing a two-year postdoc at Stanford this year, and is on the job market.

His job market paper is an experiment with an exceptionally creative design. (Spoiler: it involves a cat actually getting a kidney transplant.) 

Eliciting Preferences Over Life And Death: Experimental Evidence From Organ Transplantation by Colin by D. Sullivan

Abstract: Optimal allocation of scarce, life-saving medical treatment depends on society’s preferences over survival distributions, governed by notions of equality and  efficiency.  In  a  novel  experiment,  I  elicit  preferences  over  survival  distributions in incentivized, life-or-death decisions. Subjects allocate an organ transplant among real cats with kidney failure. In each choice, subjects allocate a single organ based on the expected survival of each patient. The survival rates imply a price ratio, allowing me to infer the shape of indifference curves over survival bundles. I find that the vast majority (80%) of subjects respond to  increases  in  total  expected  survival  time,  while  a  small  minority  display Leontief preferences, providing the transplant to the shortest-lived patient at all  price  ratios.  Hypothetical  decisions  may  not  be  reliable  in  this  context: a large share (46%) of subjects allocate a hypothetical transplant differently than a real transplant, though estimates of aggregate preferences are the same across incentivized and unincentivized conditions. Finally, I show that aversion to wealth inequality is a good predictor of aversion to survival inequality.

(This human subjects research proto-col  was  approved  by  the  Stanford  University  Institutional  Review  Board  (IRB).  A discussion of ethical considerations in designing this protocol is included in Appendix A.)


It's not his first really very creative experimental design: check out is 2019 paper in the AER

Incentivized Resume Rating: Eliciting Employer PreferencesWithout Deception (With Judd B. Kessler And Corinne Low)

American Economic Review, 2019, Vol. 109 (11): 3713-44. Online Appendix

Abstract: We introduce a new experimental paradigm to evaluate employer preferences, called Incentivized Resume Rating (IRR). Employers evaluate resumes they know to be hypothetical in order to be matched with real job seekers, preserving incentives while avoiding the deception necessary in audit studies. We deploy IRR with employers recruiting college seniors from a prestigious school, randomizing human capital characteristics and demographics of hypothetical candidates. We measure both employer preferences for candidates and employer beliefs about the likelihood candidates will accept job offers, avoiding a typical confound in audit studies. We discuss the costs, benefits, and future applications of this new methodology.


My advice if you're hiring: check him out.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Akhil Vohra on unravelling (and on the job market this year)

Akhil Vohra, who will be finishing his Ph.D. in Economics at Stanford this year, has been thinking about unraveling for a long time.  His job market paper explores a novel channel by which markets can unravel in time, with early, inefficient hiring, even when talent isn't scarce.

Job Market Paper, November 5, 2020

Abstract: Labor markets are said to unravel if the matches between workers and firms
occur inefficiently early, based on limited information. I argue that a significant determinant of unraveling is the transparency of the secondary market, where firms can poach workers employed by other firms. I propose a model of interviewing and hiring that allows firms to hire on the secondary market as well as at the entry level. Unraveling arises as a strategic decision by low-tier firms to prevent poaching. While early matching reduces the probability of hiring a high type worker, it prevents rivals from learning about the worker, making poaching difficult. As a result, unraveling can occur even in labor markets without a shortage of talent. When secondary markets are very transparent, unraveling disappears. However, the resulting matching is still inefficient due to the incentives of low-tier firms to communicate that they have not hired top-quality workers. Coordinating the timing of hiring does not mitigate the inefficiencies because firms continue to act strategically to prevent poaching.

You can see him talk about his job market paper in this four minute video:


He applies his model to a number of labor markets, both those which are unraveled and those which aren't:


My advice if you're hiring: check him out.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Price gouging during the pandemic: NY law revised and enforced

 Here's the press release from the office of the Attorney General of New York:

Attorney General James Stops Three Amazon Sellers from Price Gouging Hand Sanitizer and Recoups Funds for New Yorkers:  Sellers to Pay More Than $52,000 in Penalties and Nearly $23,000 in Consumer Restitution--AG James Reminds Sellers Price Gouging is Unlawful During Pandemic

"New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that she has stopped three Amazon sellers from price gouging hand sanitizer during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis, and that she will help deliver tens of thousands of dollars back into the pockets of defrauded New Yorkers. Three sellers — Yvette Chaya d/b/a Northwest-Lux (Northwest-Lux), Mobile Rush, Inc. d/b/a Best_Deals_27 (Mobile Rush), and EMC Group, Inc. d/b/a Supreme Suppliers (EMC) — will pay the state of New York more than $52,000 in penalties and reimburse consumers almost $23,000 for overcharging for hand sanitizer during the pandemic.

Price gouging on necessary consumer supplies during an unprecedented public health emergency is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General James. “Instead of ensuring individuals could protect themselves from the coronavirus, these businesses operated with dirty hands by charging exorbitant prices on hand sanitizer and other cleansing products. My office will continue to clean up this unlawful practice by using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this pandemic.


"The OAG has already issued more than 1,800 cease-and-desist orders to businesses that stand accused of violating New York’s price gouging law. 


"Sellers should be aware that New York revised its price gouging statute, effective June 6, 2020, to impose increased penalties against those who price gouge essential items during a pandemic."

Friday, November 20, 2020

Adventures in transplant transport

 Speedy transport of transplantable organs is an important part of transplantation.  Sometimes the logistics are more exciting than you would like.  Here are two news stories:

Donated Heart Survives Helicopter Crash and Being Dropped by Medic--The heart was successfully transplanted moments later.  By Loukia Papadopoulos

Italian Police Use Lamborghini To Transport Donor Kidney 300 Miles In Two Hours   by Elizabeth Blackstock  (HT Scott Kominers)

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Pandemic inspired changes in the economy that may last--real estate and medicine

 In academia, Zoom seminars may coexist with in-person seminars long after the pandemic has ended. They aren't as nice as in-person seminars, but they involve much less air travel.

Business meetings too can more easily be conducted remotely these days, through Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc. Once again, there's something missing compared to in person meetings, but that's counterbalanced by the skipped travel.

Exercise has changed--fewer visits to the gym, but internet companies like Peloton and Mirror combine home gym equipment with workouts in internet gym classes.

Here are some other items that have caught my eye:

Real Estate Transactions Go Virtual--The traditional real estate closings with a room full of people and stacks of documents are becoming a memory, as much of the process is now online.  By Sydney Franklin in the NY Times

"Real estate transactions have gone largely digital as the pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of home buying, from house hunting to securing a mortgage, getting an appraisal, notarizing documents and signing the final closing documents.


"While some clients continue to prefer in-person closings, others are giving their lawyers power of attorney to sign the final documents for them or they’re executing closings on virtual platforms like DocuSign.


"By the time New York’s real estate market reopened in June after several months of coronavirus restrictions, most buyers were prioritizing virtual tours before reaching out for an in-person visit.


"Since March 31, an executive order by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has allowed notaries in New York to sign documents using audio-video technology instead of signing and notarizing documents in person.

"Dawn Pereyo, an underwriter and past president of the New York State Land Title Association, says this work flow is the way of the future. Twenty-nine states, not including New York, have already enacted permanent remote online notarization (RON) legislation. “The executive order has allowed us to start down the road of RON,” she said.


And this:

20 Ways 2020 Changed How We Use Technology Forever--Our reliance on technology while isolated at home these past months—whether Zooming into weddings or FaceTiming with doctors—has permanently altered our relationship to gadgets.   By Matthew Kitchen in the WSJ

"telemedicine and teletherapy visits became the norm. According to a survey by the American Psychiatric Association, the percentage of patients regularly using some form of telehealth with a professional rose from 2.1% pre-pandemic to more than 84.7% as of this summer."

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Matching for platonic co-parenting

 The Guardian has the story, if you're looking for a co-parent rather than a life partner:

I wanted to meet a mate and have a baby without wasting time’: the rise of platonic co-parenting--They’re ready to start a family, but can’t wait for The One. As ‘mating’ sites boom under lockdown, we meet those hoping for a better way to raise a child

"In a world where biological science and equal rights have diversified ways to start a family, platonic co-parenting – the decision to have a child with someone you are not romantically involved with and, in most cases, choose not to live with – remains a relatively new phenomenon.

"Well established in gay communities, along with egg and sperm donation, it is on the rise among heterosexual singles. Tens of thousands have signed up to matchmaking sites at a cost of around £100 a year. On, which launched in Europe in 2008, two-thirds of its 120,000 worldwide members are straight. Modamily, which launched in LA in 2012, has 30,000 international members, of whom 80% are straight and 2,000 are British. UK-based competitor has 53,000 members, split 60/40 women to men, and ranks its domestic market as its strongest. During lockdown, the latter two sites reported traffic surges of 30-50%."

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


 Mike Ostrovsky points out that small design decisions can have big consequences, and considers how European regulations have caused search engines to be allocated on Android phones.

CHOICE SCREEN AUCTIONS by Michael Ostrovsky, NBER Working Paper  (a less gated version is here)

"ABSTRACT: Choice screen auctions have been recently deployed in 31 European countries, allowing consumers to choose their preferred search engine on Google's Android platform instead of being automatically defaulted to Google's own search engine. I show that a seemingly minor detail in the design of these auctions—whether they are conducted on a “per appearance” or a “per install” basis—plays a major role in the mix and characteristics of auction winners, and, consequently, in their expected overall market share. I also show that “per install” auctions distort the incentives of alternative search engines toward extracting as much revenue as possible from each user who installs them, at the expense of lowering the expected number of such users. The distortion becomes worse as the auction gets more competitive and the number of bidders increases. Empirical evidence from Android choice screen auctions conducted in 2020 is consistent with my theoretical results."

The auction rules: "In each country auction, search providers will state the price that they are willing to pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen in the given country. The three highest bidders will appear in the choice screen for that country. The provider that is selected by the user will pay the amount of the fourth-highest bid."


"In this paper, I show that a seemingly minor detail of the implementation of choice screen auctions plays a major role in their outcomes—and thus in the overall effectiveness of the antitrust remedy. Specifically, while the answer in the Q&A section of the document states that an auction “allows search providers to decide what value they place on appearing in the choice screen and to bid accordingly,” the auction, as implemented, charges these providers not for appearing in the choice screen but for being chosen by a user. 

"While the difference may seem to be just a matter of language, it is not. To see the intuition for the difference, consider a version of the auction with just one available spot and two bidders. Bidder A gets revenue $10 from each user who installs its search engine, and if it is shown as an option in the choice screen, then the probability that a user will choose it is 10%. Bidder B gets revenue $20 from each user who installs its search engine, but the probability that a user will choose it (if it is shown as an option in the choice screen) is only 1%. The value that bidder A has for appearing on the screen is therefore $1, and the value that bidder B has for appearing on the screen is $0.20. Thus, if the auction is conducted on the “per appearance” basis, then bidder A will win, will pay $0.20 per appearance, and will have its search engine chosen by users 10% of the time, while the dominant platform’s own search engine will be chosen 90% of the time. If, instead, the auction is conducted as implemented, with bidding and payment on the “per install” basis, then bidder B will win and will pay $10 every time its search engine is chosen (corresponding to $0.10 per appearance). The winner’s search engine will be chosen only 1% of the time, and the dominant platform’s one will be chosen the remaining 99% of the time. Thus, relative to the per appearance auction, the per install auction results in a lower likelihood that an alternative search engine will be chosen by the user (making it correspondingly more attractive to the dominant platform) and gives advantage to search engines that generate higher revenue per user vs. those that are more popular but generate less revenue on a per-user basis. I

Monday, November 16, 2020

OK Cupid on trends in dating

 The datng site OK Cupid regularly surveys its users, and have just published a summary of recent results:

The Future of Dating--OkCupid Data Predicts 8 Dating Trends Singles Can Expect from 2021

Perhaps the most predictable of the 8 trends they note is this one:

"More than 2 million people answered our question “Do you prefer that your date shares your political views?” with 64% of respondents agreeing: cross-party dating does not work in modern relationships. In 2021, we’re going to see more people are refusing to date outside party lines. Around the world, 5 million daters answered our question “Could you date someone who has strong political opinions that are the exact opposite of yours?”, and there’s been an upward trend in people refusing to date across party lines. In 2019, 53% of respondents said they couldn’t date someone whose political views were the opposite of theirs — and that ratio jumped to 60% in 2020."

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Joshua Gans on Paul Milgrom

 In Vox.EU:

Paul Milgrom, price discoverer and Nobel laureate--Joshua Gans 15 November 2020

"One thing I remember clearly about Paul Milgrom as an advisor is the child-like glee he would exhibit when he had found a new and interesting problem to solve. That happened one day in 1993 when he had been asked to consult on the proposal by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction off spectrum for the next generation of mobile phones."

Saturday, November 14, 2020

UAE modifies laws on alcohol, cohabitation, and honor killings

 The Guardian has the story:

UAE decriminalises alcohol and lifts ban on unmarried couples living together--Country also ends lenient punishments for ‘honour’ killings as part of reforms       by Emma Graham-Harrison and agencies

"The United Arab Emirates has ended lenient punishments for so-called “honour” killings, lifted a ban on unmarried couples living together and decriminalised alcohol, in reforms to personal laws.


"The country, where citizens are outnumbered nine-to-one by migrants, has long branded itself internationally as a modern business and tourist destination and has not always strictly implemented its own law.


"Emirati judges have until now been allowed to hand down lighter sentences when a woman was attacked or killed by a relative because she has acted in a way he considers to have affected the family reputation, or “honour”. That can include eloping or fraternising with men not related to them.

"Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, described the changes as “positive steps for women’s rights” but also raised concerns about the daughters of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

"A UK family court this year found he had orchestrated the abductions of two of his children – one from the streets of Cambridge – and subjected his youngest wife to a campaign of “intimidation”.


"The reports did not mention other behaviour outlawed by Emirati law, which has previously landed foreigners in trouble, including homosexual relationships, cross-dressing and public displays of affection.

"Although alcohol is available for sale in restaurants and bars in Emirati cities, individuals needed a licence to buy booze or keep it in their homes. The new laws would apparently allow Muslims, who have not been able to get licences, to drink alcoholic beverages freely."

Friday, November 13, 2020

Large cores in college admissions markets: the case of Hungary by Biro, Hassidim, Romm, Shorrer and Sovago

 Here's a paper that tells us something about stable college admissions, and also something more general about large cores in matching with contracts.

Need versus Merit: The Large Core of College Admissions Markets*

by Péter Biró, Avinatan Hassidim, Assaf Romm, Ran I. Shorrer, Sándor Sóvágó

Abstract: This paper studies the set of stable allocations in college admissions markets where students can attend the same college under different financial terms. The stable deferred acceptance mechanism implicitly allocates funding based on merit. In Hungary, where the centralized mechanism is based on deferred acceptance, an alternate stable algorithm would change the assignment of 9.3 percent of the applicants, and increase the number of assigned applicants by 2 percent. Low socioeconomic status applicants and colleges in the periphery benefit disproportionately from moving to this non-merit-based algorithm. These findings stand in sharp contrast to findings from the matching (without contracts) literature.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Another art museum cancels sale of art in response to pushback

 The NY Times has the story about another last minute cancellation of a "deaccessioning" sale by an art museum:

Baltimore Museum of Art Cancels Painting Sale that Drew Complaints--The museum was prepared to sell three major works to pay for salary increases and to diversify its collection, but many critics disagreed with the plan.   By Hilarie M. Sheets

"The Baltimore Museum of Art is pausing its plan to sell three major paintings from its collection. A Sotheby’s sale of works by Brice Marden, Clyfford Still and Andy Warhol was estimated to bring in $65 million to fund acquisitions of art by people of color and staff-wide salary increases.

"The decision, on the day of a planned auction of two of the works, came after weeks of criticism from people who opposed the sale and hours after a conversation between leaders of the museum and the Association of Art Museum Directors, a professional organization advancing best practices for art museums.


"In April, the association loosened its strict deaccessioning guidelines for the next two years to help museums under financial stress from the pandemic by allowing them to sell works to fund direct collection care, not just the acquisition of other artworks. While the Baltimore Museum has a balanced budget, its director, Christopher Bedford, said earlier this month he saw an opportunity to create an endowment for collection care that would then free up money for salary increases — a vision-based initiative in line with his efforts to bring greater equity to both its collections and workplace culture."



Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Crispr gene editing is apparently not yet so well understood

 The NY Times has the story:

Crispr Gene Editing Can Cause Unwanted Changes in Human Embryos, Study Finds--Instead of addressing genetic mutations, the Crispr machinery prompted cells to lose entire chromosomes.  By Katherine J. Wu.

"A powerful gene-editing tool called Crispr-Cas9, which this month nabbed the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for two female scientists, can cause serious side effects in the cells of human embryos, prompting them to discard large chunks of their genetic material, a new study has found.

Administered to cells to repair a mutation that can cause hereditary blindness, the Crispr-Cas9 technology appeared to wreak genetic havoc in about half the specimens that the researchers examined, according to a study published in the journal Cell on Thursday.

"The consequences of these errors can be quite serious in some cases, said Dieter Egli, a geneticist at Columbia University and an author of the study. Some cells were so flummoxed by the alterations that they simply gave up on trying to fix them, jettisoning entire chromosomes, the units into which human DNA is packaged, Dr. Egli said."


Previous post:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Lies, damn lies, and internet conspiracy theories

 One reason lies spread faster than true stories on social media is that lies can be designed to be clickbait, while the truth is constrained by the facts.  This has been notably true with stories about election fraud, but it is by no means confined to lies originating at the top.

The Washington Post has the story:

Big Tech still hasn’t figured out how to make truth spread faster than lies--Warnings from Twitter and Facebook were the equivalent of slapping the “PARENTAL ADVISORY” labels from album covers on the president of the United States.    By Geoffrey A. Fowler

"President Trump tweeted that America’s election was being stolen, and Twitter put labels over his lies over a dozen times and counting. “This tweet is disputed and might be misleading,” it warned.


"But as tech products, the labels were too little, too late. There’s scant evidence that labels make a lick of difference to viewers. Moreover, they didn’t stop the flow of toxic election content on social media. That’s because social media’s business model is toxic content.


"when we look back on the 2020 election, we’ll remember it for the domestic disinformation campaigns and alternate-reality bubbles that grew, in part, because of technology designed to amplify them. This was the year where some 70 candidates for office embraced at least parts of the wacky QAnon online conspiracy theory, and one of them — Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — got elected to Congress.


"There is one way labels could definitely be effective, disinformation experts agree: by making it physically harder to share misinformation — adding speed bumps to the information superhighway.

"Facebook said Friday it had added a mini speed bump: forcing people to look at an additional message before they could share a flagged post.

"Twitter was the only one that made a significant speed bump effort on election night. Trump’s tweets covered by warning labels had to be clicked on to be seen, and didn’t show retweet and like counts. And they couldn’t be shared without adding your own context on top.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Assisted reproductive technology in Japan's national health insurance

 The Financial Times has the story:

Prime minister floats fertility treatment to boost Japan’s birth rate--Critics say making IVF cheaper will not address economic insecurity of raising children by Robin Harding

"Japan has spent 50 years fretting about its low birth rate and declining population but new prime minister Yoshihide Suga has hit on a different solution: fertility treatment.

"In his leadership campaign, Mr Suga called for in vitro fertilisation to be covered on national health insurance. The prime minister wants to make it affordable in a country where the average age of first-time mothers is now above 30 and nearly one in five couples has had tests or treatment for infertility.

"Mr Suga hopes the policy will raise Japan’s fertility rate, which stood at 1.36 children per woman in 2019. The fertility rate has been below the replacement level of 2.1 since the 1970s, locking in decades of future population decline with profound consequences for Japan’s society, economy and national security.

"But while subsidies for fertility treatment reflect a slow shift in Japan towards supporting parents rather than criticising the childless, experts said it still did little to address the economic insecurity and gender inequality that discouraged marriage and raising children."

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Interviews with Fuhito Kojima, Bob Wilson, and Al Roth in the Japanese economic magazine Diamond Weekly

 Here are three interviews conducted by the journalist Kohei Takeda for the Japanese economic magazine  DIAMOND WEEKLY, on their website DIAMOND ONLINE.   

Here are the headlines and beginnings via Google Translate.

The essence of the Nobel Prize in Economics "Game Theory", explained by a former colleague of the award winner--Interview with Fuhito Kojima, Professor of the University of Tokyo, Director of Market Design Center, University of Tokyo  by Kohei Takeda : Reporter

The interview begins with these opening words from Fuhito:

"Eight years ago, when Al (Professor at Alvin Roth Stanford University), who I had been taught, received the award, we held a grand celebration and press conference. I thought I couldn't do that this year due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection, but in the evening of the award day (October 12), planned by him and his wife Emily, in the garden of Al's house. A small celebration was held while keeping a certain distance from each other.

"At universities in the United States, teachers and students tend to live very close to the campus, so fellow researchers have more relationships with their neighbors. I still lived near the university, so I received an invitation email from Emily on the day and participated in the celebration. ...

"To me, Paul was a colleague at the university, but he is also like a mentor. After I got a job at Stanford University about 10 years ago, my research field was the same "market design" in the Faculty of Economics (Editor's note: one of the research fields of game theory) , and sometimes I wrote a co-authored paper. , I was able to build a good relationship.

"He is a major researcher I have known since I was a student... Bob taught both Al and Paul, so academically I'm also Bob's "grandson."


2020 Nobel Prize Winner "Auction Theory for Business" Special Lecture--Interview with Professor Emeritus of Robert Wilson Stanford University by Kohei Takeda : Reporter

The first thing Bob was asked to explain was his work on the winner's curse:

"I started working in this area in the 1960s. The background to this was the issue of oil drilling rights among US oil companies at that time. They had very incomplete information about what their oil reserves were. From the size of the oil field to whether or not it was filled with hydrocarbons, there were many things we didn't know. Oil companies were under pressure to estimate their reserves in such an unknown environment.

"When auctioning under these circumstances, each participating player tends to overestimate in order to win the bid. In this case, each estimate is a function to increase the likelihood of bidding, but oil companies face the challenge of significantly lower rates of return after investing in oil rigs. Was there.

"Eventually, this is (in a situation where each player does not have the same information, the information is asymmetrical, and the player eventually chooses the less valuable one in an attempt to maximize his or her profits). (Adverse selection) ”was recognized as a problem. In other words, there was a tendency to win bids only when overestimating.

"What I have built is a theory for bidding various things in the best possible way, taking into account the situation of such adverse selection. This achievement has attracted a great deal of attention and is one of my early achievements in research. The negative effect of overestimating what is being bid on and winning the auction has been called "Winner's Curse". However, the best bidding strategy takes its existence into account, so you won't suffer from the curse of the winner."


Nobel laureate in economics "Matching theory that can be used in business" --Interview with Professor Alvin Roth Stanford University by Kohei Takeda : Reporter

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Bernard Cohen (1934-2020), who convinced the Supreme Court that bans on inter-racial marriage were unconstitutional

 Flags flew at half staff in Virginia last month, marking the death of Bernard Cohen, and also marking how much has changed in Virginia and the U.S. since he argued in the Supreme Court against the Virginia law that forbid inter-racial marriage. (The legalization of same sex marriage was still decades in the future.)

Va. flags to be half-staff Friday in memory of late Bernard Cohen, lawyer in Loving v. Virginia case   by MATTHEW BARAKAT, AP 

"Cohen and legal colleague Phil Hirschkop represented Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and Black woman who were convicted in Virginia in 1959 of illegally cohabiting as man and wife and ordered to leave the state for 25 years.

"Cohen and Hirschkop represented the Lovings as they sought to have their conviction overturned. It resulted in the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling, which declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional."


In a 1963 appeal, the Virginia trial judge declared:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages,” the judge wrote in upholding the sentence. “The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix.”


Here's the Supreme Court decision 


June 12, 1967, Decided

"Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

"These convictions must be reversed."

Friday, November 6, 2020

New Zealand votes to legalise euthanasia but not marijuana

 The Guardian has the story:

New Zealand votes to legalise euthanasia in referendum--Results must be enacted by the new Labour government by November 2021, but second referendum on legalising cannabis fails to find support  by Eleanor Ainge Roy 

"New Zealanders have voted to legalise euthanasia for those with a terminal illness, in a victory for campaigners who say people suffering extreme pain should be given a choice over how and when to bring their life to a close.

"The decision on whether to legalise euthanasia appeared as a referendum question on the 17 October general election ballot paper, alongside a second referendum question on whether to legalise cannabis – which did not succeed, according to preliminary results.

"The results of the euthanasia referendum are binding and will see the act come into effect 12 months from the final results – on 6 November 2021. Assisted dying will be administered by the Ministry of Health.


"The vote makes New Zealand only the seventh country in the world to legalise assisted dying."

Thursday, November 5, 2020

America's "war on drugs" appears to be winding down after this election

 Vox has the story:

Election Day was a major rejection of the war on drugs--In every state where marijuana legalization or another drug policy reform was on the ballot, it won.  By German Lopez

"In every state where a ballot measure asked Americans to reconsider the drug war, voters sided with reformers. In Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, voters legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. In Mississippi and South Dakota (separate from the full legalization measure), voters legalized medical marijuana.

"In Oregon, voters decriminalized — but not legalized — all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Also in Oregon, voters legalized the use of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms, for supervised therapeutic uses.

"In Washington, DC, voters in effect decriminalized psychedelic plants, following the lead of several other cities.

"With its vote, Oregon became the first state in the US to decriminalize all drugs in modern times. And marijuana is now legalized in 15 states and DC, although DC still doesn’t allow sales."


Update: and here's Kristof in the NYT:

Republicans and Democrats Agree: End the War on Drugs--Voters in red and blue states may be in accord on nothing else, but they passed measures to liberalize drug laws.  By Nicholas Kristof

"In Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota, voters decisively passed measures liberalizing marijuana laws. Marijuana will now be legal for medical use in about 35 states and for recreational use in 15 states.


"Under the new Oregon measure, manufacturing or selling drugs will still be crimes, but possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine would be equivalent to a traffic ticket. The aim is to steer people into treatment so that they can get help with their addictions."

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Wearing military honors is a protected transaction


The New Yorker has an interesting story that sheds light on how we think of honorable or exceptional military service, and how claims about it are not so easy to verify and are (therefore) sometimes made falsely in public ways. (The story focuses on a Republican primary campaign for sheriff in a Texas county, in which both candidates lied about their military service.)

 How to Spot a Military Impostor--The detectives who investigate fake stories of military service use many tools, including shame.  By Rachel Monroe

"Politicians lie to get us into wars; generals lie about how well things are going; soldiers lie about what they did during their service. In 1782, when George Washington awarded ribbons and badges to valorous Revolutionary War troops, he was already worrying about pretenders. “Should any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them they shall be severely punished,” he wrote. When Walter Washington Williams, thought to be the last surviving veteran of the Confederate Army, died, in 1959, President Eisenhower called for a national day of mourning. It turned out that Williams had fabricated his service, and that the second-longest-surviving Confederate soldier probably had, too. In fact, according to the Civil War historian William Marvel, “every one of the last dozen recognized Confederates was bogus.” But it’s only recently that lying about military service has been considered a particularly heinous form of lying, one with its own name: stolen valor.


"...wearing an unearned military medal was against the law, but there was no particular consideration given to lies about military service; the same chapter of the federal statute also made it illegal to proffer a fake police badge, pretend to be a member of 4-H, or misuse the likeness of Smokey Bear. That began to change in 2004, after an Arizona man was featured in a local newspaper as a highly decorated veteran who had, among other improbable exploits, assisted in the capture of Saddam Hussein. Sterner helped expose him as a liar, but he was frustrated that there was no criminal penalty. It wasn’t illegal to lie about a medal—it was only when you pinned it on your lapel that you broke the law.


"The Stolen Valor Act of 2005, written in part by Pam Sterner, was introduced the year that millions of filmgoers watched “Wedding Crashers,” in which Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s characters lie about being Purple Heart recipients. On September 7, 2006, the act, which made it a federal crime to falsely claim receipt of a military award or decoration, passed in the Senate by unanimous consent; President George W. Bush signed it into law soon afterward. But, six years later, in United States v. Alvarez, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Xavier Alvarez, a water-district official in Southern California, who had been convicted of lying about receiving the Medal of Honor. (Alvarez had also falsely claimed to be a professional ice-hockey player and to have been married to a Mexican movie star.) The Court found that the Stolen Valor Act violated the First Amendment. Congress passed an amended statute, which made it illegal to fraudulently wear medals, embellish rank, or make false claims of service in order to obtain money or some other tangible benefit, making stolen valor an issue of fraud rather than of speech. "

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Preference Signaling for the Otolaryngology Interview Market

 From the journal The Laryngoscope, a thoughtful description of the growing interest in signaling for medical residency interviewing (which I believe will be implemented for Otolaryngology residency positions in the coming year).

Preference Signaling for the Otolaryngology Interview Market

C.W. David Chang MD  Steven D. Pletcher MD  Marc C. Thorne MD, MPH  Sonya Malekzadeh MD

First published: 06 October 2020

"The impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic extends beyond patient care and into graduate medical education (GME). The pandemic has created disarray in the residency application process. Visiting rotations and residency interviews—two cornerstones of the application cycle—are gone.

"Just as the pandemic has exposed healthcare disparities in medical care, it also shines a light on inequalities with GME. Even before the pandemic, many residency specialties observed a meteoric rise in the number of applications submitted by each applicant. In 2019, otolaryngology applicants submitted an average of 72 applications, an 80% rise over 15 years.1 This increase drives a cycle of programs receiving more applications and students feeling the need to apply more broadly to maintain competitiveness. Students with monetary resources are better able to mitigate match risk through prolific residency application and by traveling for away rotations to cultivate faculty advocates. Financially disadvantaged applicants may find it more difficult to amass influential social capital.

"With the deluge of applications, applicants are unable to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Such dilution impairs the applicants' abilities to credibly convey interests to programs. Similarly, the program director has a hard time selecting candidates from a pool of excellent applicants for interview.

"The interview is a limited resource. Selection committees often react to this scarcity by declining to interview qualified candidates they think (but do not really know) are unlikely to choose their program and instead interview candidates who they think (but do not really know) are more likely to accept an offer. This approach is inefficient.

"Preference signaling is an intriguing solution. Since 2006, the American Economic Association has operated a signaling service to facilitate job interviews for graduate students. This applicant‐initiated concept aligns goals of interested applicants with programs. Students send signals to up to two employers to indicate their interest in receiving an interview. In reviewing their outcomes, signals were found to increase probability of interview, especially for niche scenarios (nongraduate applicants, applications to liberal arts colleges, and small city locations).2 Signaling has received interest among medical residency specialties as well.3, 4


"The Otolaryngology Program Directors Organization (OPDO) Council has worked diligently with stakeholders to incorporate their input throughout the development process. We thank members and leaders of the academic otolaryngology community, including the Association of Academic Departments in Otolaryngology (AADO), the Society of University Otolaryngologists (SUO), and the greater community of program directors for their support. We appreciate the guidance and valuable insight from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)—specifically the Group on Student Affairs (GSA), the Committee on Student Affairs (COSA), and the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)—along with the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). We are hopeful that signaling will improve the residency interview selection process by facilitating the successful pairing of applicants with programs."

Monday, November 2, 2020

Ethics of machine learning--an interview with Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth

 Amazon Scholars Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth discuss the ethics of machine learning--Two of the world’s leading experts on algorithmic bias look back at the events of the past year and reflect on what we’ve learned, what we’re still grappling with, and how far we have to go.  By Stephen Zorio

"In November of 2019, University of Pennsylvania computer science professors Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth released The Ethical Algorithm: The Science of Socially Aware Algorithm Design. Kearns is the founding director of the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences, and the faculty founder and former director of Penn Engineering’s Networked and Social Systems Engineering program. Roth is the co-director of Penn’s program in Networked and Social Systems Engineering and co-authored The Algorithmic Foundations of Differential Privacy with Cynthia Dwork. Kearns and Roth are leading researchers in machine learning, focusing on both the design and real-world application of algorithms.

Their book’s central thesis, which involves “the science of designing algorithms that embed social norms such as fairness and privacy into their code,” was already pertinent when the book was released. Fast forward one year, and the book’s themes have taken on even greater significance.

Amazon Science sat down with Kearns and Roth, both of whom recently became Amazon Scholars, to find out whether the events of the past year have influenced their outlook. We talked about what it means to define and pursue fairness, how differential privacy is being applied in the real world and what it can achieve, the challenges faced by regulators, what advice the two University of Pennsylvania professors would give to students studying artificial intelligence and machine learning, and much more."

Sunday, November 1, 2020

What do we know about the effects of payments to participants in challenge trials for vaccines, and other public spirited activities?

There is starting to be an empirical literature associated with payments for socially productive activities, such as participating in challenge trials of vaccines, donating plasma, etc.

Here's a blog post in the Medical Ethics blog of the Journal of Medical Ethics:

Is it acceptable to pay nothing or little to challenge trial participants?  By Sandro Ambuehl, Axel Ockenfels and Alvin E Roth.   October 30, 2020

Here's a paragraph (with some links).:

"we hope that the debates about payments in medical research, and on other transactions subject to restrictions on payments such as blood plasma donations, will converge as empirical results accumulate. To date, there is empirical evidence on the underlying motivations for volunteering, on the impact of high payment on human risk taking, on decision quality and well-being, on the signal value of small payments, on strategies to evade regulation, and on the general public’s assessment of appropriate activities and  payments. Moreover, there are studies that document biases affecting normative judgment in general, and biases affecting paternalistic restrictions and moral intuitions in particular.


This blog post was written in connection with our paper in the JME:

Payment in challenge studies from an economics perspective 

by Sandro Ambuehl, Axel Ockenfels, and Alvin E. Roth

published online early, Oct 28, 2020.