Monday, May 31, 2021

Covid vaccine congestion in France looks familiar

France is some weeks behind the U.S. in delivering vaccines, but the script will look familiar to Americans.

The  Financial Times has the story:

France finally gets its Covid vaccination act together. The country’s inoculation drive has picked up speed after a slow start. by David Keohane 

"All it took to get my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in France was a five-hour round trip and two days and eight hours of incessant refreshing at my computer. 


""Until May 12, younger people in France weren’t allowed to book a vaccination unless they suffered from an underlying health condition which pushed them up the queue. 

"Since then anyone can book as long as the dose is set to go begging in the following 24 hours."

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Vaccinating the whole world quickly turns out to be hard

 As Covid vaccines became available, rich countries that had made early, advanced purchases at high prices had contracts that delivered available doses early, while countries and organizations that had made later purchases at lower prices had "best effort" contracts that allowed delivery dates to slip as supply chain problems developed.  The consequences were greatest for the poorest countries, despite efforts to speed vaccination worldwide.

The WSJ has the story:

Why a Grand Plan to Vaccinate the World Against Covid Unraveled. The multibillion-dollar Covax program was supposed to be a model for vaccinating humanity, but has hit problem after problem By Gabriele Steinhauser, Drew Hinshaw and Betsy McKay

"The Covax program, conceived in early 2020 as a kind of Operation Warp Speed for the globe, was supposed to be a model for how to vaccinate humanity, starting with those who needed it the most. The plan was scheduled to have the developing world’s entire healthcare workforce immunized by now.

"Instead, the idealistic undertaking to inoculate nearly a billion people collided with reality, foiled by a basic instinct for nations to put their own populations first, and a shortage of manufacturing capacity around the world.

"Dr. Berkley and a small crew of global health experts spent months trying to recruit much of the world into buying their vaccines from one common pool, rich and poor countries alike. While they were hammering out the details and raising money, nations that could afford it rushed to secure their own shots first.


"Most of the world’s poorest nations were left highly dependent on a single vaccine, produced by a single manufacturer in a single country. In a cruel twist, that supplier—the Serum Institute of India—ended up engulfed by the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreak.


"Dr. Berkley, the chief executive of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private partnership that secures childhood immunizations for the world’s poorest countries and is the central organization behind Covax, said the facility did its best to navigate a hypercompetitive vaccine market. “We hear a lot of criticism, and the truth is, we’ve tried to do something that we think is the right thing,” he said. “Hindsight’s 2020. Should we have not invested in India? Well, that was the fastest way to get there.”


"Covax started shipping Covid-19 vaccines within three months of the world’s richest countries administering their first shots—lightning speed, compared with the five to 10 years it often takes for new immunizations to reach the developing world.

"Yet now it is running out of vaccines just when Covid-19 cases are escalating across countries it was meant to protect: the low- and middle-income states of Latin America and South Asia. The program has shipped 72 million shots, far short of the 238 million it had targeted by the end of May. That’s 4% of the total 1.7 billion vaccines shipped world-wide.

"Some 20 million of Covax’s shots have come from India, which was due to ship 140 million by the end of the month but stopped exporting them as it works to inoculate the country’s 1.3 billion citizens


"Wealthy countries, including ones that had promised to fund Covax, were buying their own doses first. In late May, the U.K. had sealed its own agreement with AstraZeneca, for 100 million doses. The U.S., without a commitment to Covax, had signed up for 300 million from AstraZeneca, pledging up to $1.2 billion.

"In June, the European Union, worried that its own countries would start competing for limited supply, stepped in to buy shots for its 450 million citizens. As part of its deal with member states, the EU blocked governments from joining any parallel vaccine purchasing programs. That meant France and Germany were now effectively barred from buying doses from the pool they had championed.


"By late December, after months of haggling over prices, Covax had 2 billion doses lined up, enough to vaccinate some 20% of the population in over 100 countries. Yet most were soft agreements with no clear delivery dates or involved drugmakers whose shots hadn’t yet panned out. As Europe and the U.S. began to vaccinate, Covax’s only completed purchases were with AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute.


"On Feb. 15, the WHO approved the AstraZeneca shot for emergency use, six weeks after it was cleared in the U.K. That allowed Covax to make its first shipment to a developing country, Ghana, weeks after Serum began exporting shots to other countries.

"Three days later, the U.S., now under President Biden, announced a $2 billion contribution to Covax, with another $2 billion planned through 2022. The EU upped its commitment to 1 billion euro.

"By then, there were scant vaccines available to buy. This month, Covax reached a deal with Moderna for 500 million doses, of which 466 million won’t be delivered until 2022."

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms, and Optimization (EAAMO ’21), Oct. 5-9 2021

 "The inaugural ACM conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms, and Optimization (EAAMO ’21) aims to highlight work where techniques from algorithms, optimization, and mechanism design, along with insights from the social sciences and humanistic studies, can help improve equity and access to opportunity for historically disadvantaged and underserved communities. The conference will provide an international forum for presenting research papers, problem pitches, survey and position papers, new datasets, and software demonstrations towards the goal of bridging research and practice. Read more about us below.

The deadline has been extended to June 14th, 5pm ET / 9 pm GMT.

EAAMO ‘21 is organized by the Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG) initiative, and builds on the MD4SG technical workshop series and tutorials at conferences including ACM EC, ACM COMPASS, ACM FAccT and WINE. The conference will feature keynote talks, panels, and contributed presentations across numerous fields. In line with the MD4SG core values of bridging research and practice, the conference will bring together researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners in various government and non-government organizations, community organizations, and industry to build multi-disciplinary pipelines."

More info, including submission details here.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Kidney to Share book launch, Zoom recording

 Last week I had the pleasure of joining the discussion of the book Kidney to Share  by Martha Gurshun & John Lantos.  It was on Zoom, and the recording is now available here.

Martha and John speak for the first half hour, then I make some remarks for about ten minutes, after which there is an interesting general discussion. The whole thing is an hour, and the recording allows you to hear it at 1x, 1.5x or 2x the original speed...

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Alejandro Martínez-Marquina defends his dissertation

 Alejandro Martínez-Marquina defended his dissertation this week.

 The three papers he chose for his dissertation are these:

When a Town Wins the Lottery: Evidence from Spain

(with Christina Kent) [Slides] [Draft]

"How do local wealth shocks impact economic activity? For over two centuries, Spain has conducted a national lottery which often results in the random allocation of up to $800 million in cash to the citizens of one town. This is the only case in the world where individuals living in the same location randomly receive pure wealth shocks of this scale. Leveraging data on town-level lottery ticket expenditures, we compare winning towns to non-winning towns that had the same probability of winning. We find that although consumption increases, the lottery causes a slowdown in economic activity and deters new migration to towns that won in recent decades. However, an analysis of a century of lottery winners reveals large and persistent increases in population for towns that won in earlier periods."

The Burden of Household Debt

(with Mike Shi)

"We propose that holding debt causes worse financial decisions using a novel experimental design where we randomly assign debt. Our design isolates the consequences of holding debt while controlling for potential confounding factors such as initial wealth levels, selection, risk, and time preferences. Our findings show that debt causes behavioral biases detrimental to subjects' financial payoffs. However, subjects' strategies are not random but instead debt-biased, consistent with an additional penalty for holding negative balances. We refer to the financial losses caused by debt as the Burden of Debt and provide evidence that, under certain circumstances, these behavioral biases can compound and lead to substantial losses. Furthermore, we show in additional treatments how these debt-biased behaviors can also deter subjects from borrowing and forego profitable opportunities."

Ingraining Traditional Gender Roles in the Classroom: Evidence from the Spanish Social Service


"This study uses a regression discontinuity framework to examine the long- run effects of conservative education on women's' family and labor decisions. In 1939, the Spanish dictatorship created the Social service, a compulsory 6- month training program aimed at relegating women to the roles of mothers and housewives. We exploit the discontinuity induced by the sudden abolition of the Social Service, in addition to variation in the age of enrollment, to examine the consequences of attending the program. Using historical enrollment records and the universe of birth certificates, we find the Social Service was successful in instilling the regime's ideology. Women exposed to the class get married and have kids at younger ages, consistent with the desire to form a family sooner. In addition, they are more likely to declare being housewives when their first child is born. Future work will explore the underlying mechanisms and the effects on children by surveying women who enrolled around abolition."

Welcome to the club, Alejandro.

Aleandro ( top center) with Chenzi Xu, Muriel Niederle, Doug Bernheim, Al Roth, Ran Abramitzky

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The internet hybrid of pornography and sex work on OnlyFans

 Sex work is mostly  about in-person, one-on-one, personal encounters.  Pornography is mostly about publishing, whether in print or other media, so it is mostly about trying to reach a wider audience (even if a specialized one).  The internet has given birth to something in between, as exemplified by OnlyFans, a site that allows online communication of a sexual sort to be personalized, via individual subscriptions to personalized content, or micro-subscriptions to particular, paywall protected content. (The motto on their front page reads "Sign up to make money and interact with your fans!")  It grew a lot during the pandemic.

The NY Times has a story that likens it to a strip show with private rooms, in which the show on center stage is an invitation for fans and performers to interact more privately. Star performers can make real money, although most performers aren't stars.  

OnlyFans Isn’t Just Porn  By Charlotte Shane

"OnlyFans was founded in 2016, though its bland design makes it look like a relic from an older era. Its interface isn’t attractive, but it is familiar and easy to navigate, like a pared-down, browser-based version of Instagram or Twitter. (An OnlyFans smartphone app does not currently exist; it wouldn’t be allowed on the App Store or Google Play because of its X-rated content.) In December 2019, the platform had a user base of 17 million, which means that at some point during the pandemic, it started averaging as many new registrations per month as it had in a previous year.


"Though OnlyFans’ representatives seem to distance the site from its sexual content, the platform is synonymous with porn. Its naughty cachet attracts celebrities, whose presence on the site garners a disproportionate amount of attention. When Cardi B joined last August, she made headlines. (“No, I’m not going to be showing my titties,” she warned, but she did promise behind-the-scenes content from her risqué “WAP” music video with Megan Thee Stallion.) Celebrities use the site because they know that regardless of a creator’s stated career (chef, fitness trainer and influencer are popular), OnlyFans’ draw is the promise of seeing that which is normally unseen. 


"In this virtual strip club, as in the brick-and-mortar club, there are wide discrepancies in pay. Some performers leave with $100, while other hustlers go home with ten times as much. Established porn stars who before the pandemic could rake in thousands per night by appearing as a strip joint’s “featured dancer” enjoy a similar, even more lucrative power on OnlyFans. 


"“OnlyFans is buying houses for girls,” she told me. “It is supporting sex workers’ families. It’s everything that people are saying.” But like the misleading caption used to sell a celebrity’s locked posts, what people say can be accurate while failing to tell the truth.


"OnlyFans was perfectly positioned to become a housebound population’s go-to source for explicit material because of what is called the gentrification of the internet. In the context of sex work, this refers to an aggressive pattern of policing both the sex trade and the people who work in it.

"In the United States, this regulatory campaign can be traced back to the federal government’s protracted and ultimately successful crusade against Craigslist’s Erotic Services in the early 2010s. Since then, the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors have systematically targeted a slew of sites that cater to sex workers, particularly advertising platforms like Backpage, which shuttered in 2018 after a multiyear effort by California’s attorney general at the time, Kamala Harris. In April that year, the bills known collectively as FOSTA-SESTA, which further criminalize communication around commercial sex, were signed into law by Donald Trump.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Payments for Covid vaccine

 The NY Times has the story:

Pakistan’s Private Vaccine Sales Highlight Rich-Poor Divide.  An inoculation push, plagued with limited supplies and red tape, makes doses available to those who can pay for them. In a country with a struggling economy, most can’t.  By Salman Masood

"Access to the coronavirus vaccine has thrown a stark light on global inequality. The United States and other rich countries have bought up most of the world’s vaccine supplies to protect their own people, leaving millions of doses stockpiled and in some places unused. Less developed countries scramble over what’s left.

"To speed up vaccinations, some countries have allowed doses to be sold privately. But those campaigns have been troubled by supply issues and by complaints that they simply reflect the global disparities.


"“The Pakistani example is a microcosm of what has gone wrong with the global response — where wealth alone has primarily shaped who gets access,” Zain Rizvi, an expert on medicine access at Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, said in an email.


India sells vaccines to private hospitals, though they are scrambling to find supplies now that the pandemic there is so serious. Kenya authorized private sales, then blocked them over fears that counterfeit vaccines would be sold. In the United States, some well-connected companies, like Bloomberg, have secured doses for employees.


"Pakistan says the private program could make more free shots available to low-income people. By purchasing doses of the Russian-made Sputnik 5 vaccine, the country’s wealthy wouldn’t need to get the free doses, which are made by Sinopharm of China. Some people would prefer to get inoculated at a private hospital because they are widely believed to be comparatively better organized and more efficient than overwhelmed government facilities.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Transplantation across ethnic divisions in Israel

 Transplantation sometimes makes for complicated stories.

Kidney from Jew killed in mob violence goes to Arab woman.  By Hadas Gold and Michael Schwartz, CNN

" Randa Aweis, 58, waited nine years for the organ donation that would change her life.

"An Arab Christian, born in the Old City of Jerusalem, she was relying on regular dialysis sessions as her kidneys failed. Then the call came: A donor kidney was available. Aweis had surgery Monday at Jerusalem's famed Hadassah University Hospital Ein Kerem. When she went under the anaesthetic, she did not know who the donor was.

"Only afterwards did she find out that it was Yigal Yehoshua, a Jewish Israeli man who died in the wave of violence between Jews and Arabs in the Israeli town of Lod.


"Yehoshua, 56, was critically injured on May 11 after being attacked by a group of young Arab Israeli men in Lod.


"Her surgeon, Dr. Abed Khalaeileh -- a Palestinian born in Jerusalem -- said he and his colleagues simply treat everyone as human beings.

HT: Itai Ashlagi

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The black market in cactus

 The NY Times has the story:

Global Cactus Traffickers Are Cleaning Out the Deserts.  A recent raid in Italy involving rare Chilean species highlights the growing scale of a black market in the thorny plants. by Rachel Nuwer

"As with the market for tiger bones, ivory, pangolin scales and rhino horn, a flourishing illegal global trade exists for plants. “Just about every plant you can probably think of is trafficked in some way,” said Eric Jumper, a special agent with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Cactuses and other succulents are among the most sought after, along with orchids and, increasingly, carnivorous species.

"Trafficking can take a serious toll. Over 30 percent of the world’s nearly 1,500 cactus species are threatened with extinction. Unscrupulous collection is the primary driver of that decline, affecting almost half of imperiled species.


"Purchasing rare species legally, however, can be difficult to impossible. All cactuses and many other types of succulents require permits to be traded internationally, if they can be legally traded at all. Most countries also prohibit collection of some or all of these species from the wild, including the United States.


"But while stronger law enforcement is welcome, a variety of experts believe prohibition, on its own, will not stop trafficking. Instead, they favor meeting demand through sustainably managed collection of seeds or cuttings of wild plants, which could be used for artificial propagation by certified greenhouses.

"Sales of these legally sourced plants could help offset illegal trade. Preferably, the proceeds would go directly to communities living alongside the species, the experts say, creating incentives to protect them. The cactus and succulent trade is “big business, but the majority of that money is not centered in countries of origin,” Dr. Margulies said. “I think there should be a push to engage in this more from a social justice lens.”

"Many countries’ domestic legislation prohibits these types of activities, however, as do strict international trade laws and bureaucracy. The result, Mr. Cattabriga said, is a system that “discourages the reproduction of rare plants in captivity, and has the side effect of exacerbating the illicit trade.”

Saturday, May 22, 2021

School choice in Sweden (and in Swedish), by Andersson and Roth

 Tommy Andersson and I wade into the school choice debate in Sweden in the Dagens Samhalle, arguing in favor of unified enrollment and the deferred acceptance algorithm. Google translate does a reasonable job of translation:

Professorer: Så kan skolvalet leda till minskad skolsegregation

Google Translate: "Professors: This is how school choice can lead to reduced school segregation

"If you seriously want to break school segregation, the choice of school needs to be maintained. But it is important that you choose the "right" method for allocating school places so that tactical school choices are eliminated, write professors Tommy Andersson and Alvin E Roth."

Friday, May 21, 2021

Journal of controversial ideas

  Some ideas are controversial not just because some people think they are bad ideas, but because they think that they are the kinds of ideas that only bad people have.  So writing about them, let alone advocating them, may have reputational costs.  Here's a new (open access) journal that offers authors the option of publishing under a pseudonym if they wish, to avoid the harassment, hate mail and death threats that would otherwise come their way.

Journal of controversial ideas

"The Journal of Controversial Ideas offers a forum for careful, rigorous, unpolemical discussion of issues that are widely considered controversial, in the sense that certain views about them might be regarded by many people as morally, socially, or ideologically objectionable or offensive. The journal offers authors the option to publish their articles under a pseudonym, in order to protect themselves from threats to their careers or physical safety.  We hope that this will also encourage readers to attend to the arguments and evidence in an essay rather than to who wrote it. Pseudonymous authors may choose to claim the authorship of their work at a later time, or to reveal it only to selected people (such as employers or prospective employers), or to keep their identity undisclosed indefinitely. Standard submissions using the authors’ actual names are also encouraged."


Jeff McMahan (White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford, UK)

Francesca Minerva (Researcher, University of Milan)

Peter Singer (Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, USA)

And Here's the first issue, with several pseudonymous contributions.

Peter Singer discusses the journal at Project Syndicate:

Keeping Discussion Free

"A new academic journal permits authors to use a pseudonym to avoid running the risk of receiving personal abuse, including death threats, or of irrevocably harming their careers. That option has become necessary even in countries that we do not think of as repressive dictatorships."

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Payday loans: usury, or access to credit? by Allcott, Kim, Taubinsky and Zinman

Payday loans and other expensive services to those without access to formal credit generate a good deal of repugnance and regulation (including bans), but may be the only source of credit available to their habitual customers. Here's a new NBER working paper on that finds that experienced borrowers don't misjudge their chances of borrowing again.

Are High-Interest Loans Predatory? Theory and Evidence from Payday Lending  by Hunt Allcott, Joshua J. Kim, Dmitry Taubinsky & Jonathan Zinman  WORKING PAPER 28799, DOI 10.3386/w28799,  May 2021

Abstract: It is often argued that people might take on too much high-cost debt because they are present focused and/or overoptimistic about how soon they will repay. We measure borrowers' present focus and overoptimism using an experiment with a large payday lender. Although the most inexperienced quartile of borrowers underestimate their likelihood of future borrowing, the more experienced three quartiles predict correctly on average. This finding contrasts sharply with priors we elicited from 103 payday lending and behavioral economics experts, who believed that the average borrower would be highly overoptimistic about getting out of debt. Borrowers are willing to pay a significant premium for an experimental incentive to avoid future borrowing, which we show implies that they perceive themselves to be time inconsistent. We use borrowers' predicted behavior and valuation of the experimental incentive to estimate a model of present focus and naivete. We then use the model to study common payday lending regulations. In our model, banning payday loans reduces welfare relative to existing regulation, while limits on repeat borrowing might increase welfare by inducing faster repayment that is more consistent with long-run preferences.


Update: here's the published paper

Allcott, Hunt, Joshua Kim, Dmitry Taubinsky, and Jonathan Zinman. "Are high-interest loans predatory? theory and evidence from payday lending." The Review of Economic Studies 89, no. 3 (2022): 1041-1084.


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Kidney exchange in India: progress, then Covid

 Here's a paper reporting, among other things, a long kidney exchange cycle in India.  But Covid has put a temporary halt to all that.

Paired Kidney Exchange in India: Future Potential and Challenges Based on the Experience at a Single Center  by Kute, Vivek B. MD, DM, FASN, FRCP1; Patel, Himanshu V. MD, DNB1; Modi, Pranjal R. MS, DNB2; Rizvi, Syed J. MS, MCh2; Engineer, Divyesh P. MD, DM1; Banerjee, Subho MD, DM1; Butala, Bina P. MD3; Gandhi, Shruti MD4; Patel, Ansy H. MBBS5; Mishra, Vineet V. MS  Transplantation: May 2021 - Volume 105 - Issue 5 - p 929-932  doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000003421

But now Covid is taking a toll. Dr. Kute writes in an email that transplantation has been on hold in Gujarat since April. He says "we had cumulative 225 kidney transplant recipients with PCR confirmed COVID-19 in our single center. Over all mortality in transplants population 10% and much higher in dialysis."

Here's hoping that vaccine production ramps up and Covid falls away in India and the rest of the world soon.


I have quite a number of posts following the work of Dr. Kute and his colleagues in Ahmedabad.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Kidney to Share

 The Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics is sponsoring a presentation tomorrow of a new book, Kidney to Share.  It's written largely in alternating chapters, by Martha Gershun, an altruistic kidney donor,  and  her friend John Lantos, a doctor and bioethicist who is a member of the same synagogue. I'll join in the discussion.

Kidney to Share Book Launch Seminar  With Authors Martha Gurshun & John Lantos,  Wednesday, May 19, 2 - 3pm PST  (RSVP )

There has been much recent discourse, and some regulatory action, about reducing the financial dis-incentives to being a kidney donor (e.g. steps have been taken to facilitate the reimbursement of out of pocket travel and child care expenses arising from donation, and even replacement of some lost wages).  But this book is among the first discussions I've seen of other dis-incentives to donation, arising from  procedural and logistical barriers.  

In Martha Gershun's case, many of these barriers to donation arose from the fact that the Mayo Clinic, where she donated, was inconveniently far from her home in Kansas City, but Mayo insisted that all procedures and tests be conducted on-site in Rochester, Minnesota. (Some of these barriers have in fact been overcome in kidney exchange, but Ms. Gershun was making a direct donation, to a patient she had read about.)

Dr. Lantos points out that if transplant centers treated kidney donors more like the way they treat financial donors, they would have found ways to smooth some of the logistical barriers that were bureaucratically applied.

Ms. Gershun, in email correspondence with me after I had read the book, wrote:

"I was very interested in your thought that there has been some improvement in logistics over the past 20 years, since it is now easier to ship kidneys.  Many of the barriers I encountered in my efforts to donate were exacerbated because we lived 6 hours from Mayo.  At every stage, they were unwilling to “outsource” any part of the process to another provider (not even that sticky substance abuse appointment or processing the blood that otherwise had to be shipped on dry ice). 


"Why couldn’t I have undergone the medical/psychological evaluation and surgery at KU Medical Center, a highly-respected transplant center just 2 miles from my house, with the kidney flown to Mayo for transplantation?  You have made me think that another barrier to consider must surely be the proprietary and siloed nature of Transplant Centers.  How many more transplants could we do if we eliminated the need for both donor and recipient to receive their care at the same institution?  My understanding is that pairs/chains have made a lot more progress on that front than directed donations."

Kidney to Share

In a subsequent email exchange Ms. Gershun points out to me that other transplant centers accept shipped kidneys even for direct transplants from donor to recipient (with no exchange involved). (The article below, from the ABA Journal, concerns a kidney shipped from UCLA to MGH in Boston, where the transplant was performed.  Both of those transplant centers have lots of inter-hospital kidney exchange experience.)

Father and daughter legal scholars complete successful kidney transplant  by Stephanie Francis Ward

"Jennifer Mnookin had one kidney removed in Los Angeles on Dec. 2, and it was put on an overnight flight to Boston to be transferred Dec. 3 to Robert Mnookin, who had end-stage kidney disease. Both are doing well."

Monday, May 17, 2021

The pandemic and the job market for economists

 It's been a tough year on the academic job market. Here's hoping it recovers quickly.

Committee chair John Cawley submitted the following Report of the Ad Hoc Committee  on the Job Market  AEA Papers and Proceedings 2021, 111: 801–802

" To share information about how COVID-19 is affecting the job market for PhD economists, we have regularly released memos providing information on the demand and supply of new PhD economists. These memos can be found on our committee’s webpage, but below is a summary of the most recent information.

a. Regarding labor demand: the overall number of job openings on JOE in 2020 was down 26.5 percent from 2019. The number of full-time academic jobs in the United States was down 52.8 percent, and the number of full-time academic jobs outside the United States (and listed on JOE) was down 20.3 percent. The number of fulltime nonacademic jobs listed on JOE was down 17.7 percent from 2019.

b. Regarding labor supply: the number of new JOE job candidate accounts created by students was down 19.1 percent from 2019, and the number of people sending AEA signals was down 14.9 percent."

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The common app and the growth of applications to selective colleges, by Brian Knight and Nathan Schiff

A pair of papers study the Common App, how it is used disproportionally by selective universities and liberal arts colleges, to which applications have increased over time.  The papers focus on how this has increased student choice. 

There's a parallel set of arguments made elsewhere, particularly in connection with application to medical residencies, that too many applications increase congestion in the admissions process. 

The Common Application and Student Choice, By Brian Knight and Nathan Schiff, AEA Papers and Proceedings 2021, 111: 460–464,

And here's a longer companion paper:

Reducing Frictions in College Admissions: Evidence from the Common Application by Brian Knight and Nathan Schiff, April 17, 2020

Abstract: College admissions in the U.S. is decentralized, creating frictions that limit student choice. We study the Common Application (CA) platform, under which students submit a single application to member schools, potentially reducing frictions and increasing student choice. The CA increases the number of applications received by schools, reflecting a reduction in frictions, and reduces the yield on accepted students, reflecting increased choice. The CA increases out-of-state enrollment, especially from other CA states, consistent with network effects. CA entry changes the composition of students, with evidence of more racial diversity, more high-income students, and imprecise evidence of increases in SAT scores.

For a look at applications through the other end of the telescope, see

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The importance of very early education, by Gray-Lobe, Pathak, and Walters

 There's more to education than exam scores.  Here's a recent paper on the effects of early preschool education on long term educational outcomes.

The Long-Term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston  by Guthrie Gray-Lobe, Parag Pathak, and Christopher Walters, SEII Discussion Paper #2021.05  ay 2021

ABSTRACT: We use admissions lotteries to estimate the effects of large-scale public preschool in Boston on college-going, college preparation, standardized test scores, and behavioral outcomes. Preschool enrollment boosts college attendance, as well as SAT test-taking and high school graduation. Preschool also decreases several disciplinary measures including juvenile incarceration, but has no detectable impact on state achievement test scores. An analysis of subgroups shows that effects on college enrollment, SAT-taking, and disciplinary outcomes are larger for boys than for girls. Our findings illustrate possibilities for large-scale modern, public preschool and highlight the importance of measuring long-term and non-test score outcomes in evaluating the effectiveness of education programs

Friday, May 14, 2021

Clean needle exchange faces renewed opposition in Indiana and elsewhere

Harm reduction measures in connection with intravenous drug abuse can remain repugnant even where they were successful.

Statnews has the story:

Years ago, a syringe exchange helped end a devastating HIV outbreak. Now it might be forced to close  By Lev Facher

"The Indiana county at the center of a devastating HIV crisis in 2015 may soon close the syringe exchange program widely credited with helping to end its outbreak.

"For public health advocates in Scott County, home to 24,000, the controversy is all too familiar. Six years ago, the county drew national attention for recording roughly 200 HIV cases in a single year, largely driven by injection drug use. Critics have charged that the state government’s slow response and monthslong refusal to permit needle exchanges only made the crisis worse.

"Closing the exchange now, they warn, could lead to a new wave of HIV and hepatitis C cases and increased drug overdoses. Nationally, too, many are worried it could trigger a broader wave of closures. Scott County’s syringe exchange was hailed as a success in 2015 and paved the way for other programs to open across the country. Many fear that shuttering the program, similarly, could inspire activists from coast to coast seeking to close syringe exchanges in their communities.


"The new debate in Indiana comes amid a wave of anti-syringe-exchange activism across the country, including a controversial new law in West Virginia that critics say could force many local programs there to close. West Virginia is experiencing a worst-in-the-nation HIV outbreak not unlike Indiana’s six years ago.


"Despite the reduced rates of transmission, Scott County is still among those most vulnerable to HIV outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It sits at the western edge of the country’s largest HIV hotspot: An area spanning several hundred miles that includes parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee, where much of the HIV transmission is thought to be driven by injection drug use.

"Still, neighbors and local lawmakers there have sought to close the exchange, citing fears it encourages or facilitates drug use and crime (data shows that such programs do not). They have also charged that syringe exchanges lead to hazardous litter, like stray needles — a problem that, in some cases, harm reduction advocates have acknowledged and pledged to help address."

Thursday, May 13, 2021

INFORMS 3rd workshop on market design in July (submission deadline June 1)

 Alex Teytelboym sends me the following announcement:

The INFORMS Section on Auctions and Market Design is organizing its 3rd Workshop on Market Design, traditionally held in conjunction with the ACM Conference on Economics and Computation.  

The two-day workshop with invited speakers and a sequence of submitted papers will be held virtually on July 23-24, 2021.  The submission deadline is June 1, 2021.  Further information is available here.

Keynote speakers

  • Tommy Andersson, Lund University
  • Organizers

    We look forward to your participation and to getting your submissions!

    Martin Bichler, Technical University of Munich

    Sasa Pekec, Duke university

    Alex Teytelboym, University of Oxford

    Wednesday, May 12, 2021

    A glimmer of hope for German kidney transplants: a discussion of kidney exchange

     Axel Ockenfels (who, along with Dorothea Kubler has been at the forefront of advocating for kidney exchange in Germany) forwards me this announcement (translated from German):

    "the German Federal Ministry of Health is organizing a digital symposium on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, from 09:30 to approx. 15:30 on the topic of "Expanding the donor pool for living organ donation - a perspective for Germany?", to which we cordially invite you. Please feel free to forward the invitation to interested parties from your industry.

    "An organ transplant is often the only way to save the lives of seriously ill people or to restore their quality of life. In view of long waiting times for a post-mortem organ donation, the question of living donation sometimes arises. Living organ donation has been permitted in Germany since 1997 within narrow limits and under special conditions. The donor and recipient must be "manifestly close in a special personal bond." However, living donation may be excluded in such cases for medical reasons. In order to increase the chances of organ transplantation for patients who are affected by this, some countries have established so-called kidney exchange programs.

    "The symposium will take a look at various possibilities for extending organ donation: What are the opportunities and risks associated with cross over donation, pooled donation and so-called non-directed living donation? What procedures are necessary to protect donors? These and other questions will be discussed from a medical, legal and ethical perspective with an interdisciplinary audience. 

    "We would be delighted if you could contribute your expertise to the discussion and if we could welcome you at the event on

    "Tuesday, June 29, 2021, 09:30 - approx. 15:30 hrs.


    "welcome to the event. The invitation is explicitly transferable. 

    "If you would like to attend the event, please register by June 28, 2021 at the following link: Event Management Tool link.

    Yours sincerely

    "Joachim Becker

    "Head of the Department of Medical and Professional Law, Prevention

    Translated with (free version)"


    This seems like a potentially very positive first step, despite (or maybe because) of the fact that it seems to be signed by the Ministry of Health's department of prevention... (Leiter der Abteilung Medizin- und Berufsrecht, Prävention)

    A previous post observed that kidney exchange receives popular support in Germany:

    Tuesday, May 11, 2021

    Keeping pilots in the Air Force, in the face of renewed, post-pandemic demand from airlines

     I spent a good deal of time last year working on understanding the internal labor market of the Air Force, and how it interacts with the larger American labor market.

    During the pandemic, with airlines cutting back on flights, it may have seemed as if the problem of retaining pilots had eased. But airline demand for pilots is growing,rand the Air Force will have to think creatively about retention of pilots who are at or near the end of their service obligation.

    Here's a short piece in Defense One, by two Air Force officers:

    The USAF’s Bad Bets on Pilot Retention Show It Needs Outside Help. Service leaders think the same old tactics can reverse a pilot shortage in a resurging economy.  By BRIAN KRUCHKOW and TOBIAS SWITZER

    "Despite the pandemic, the Air Force is still short of pilots, thanks to low retention and strong airline hiring. Before COVID-19 reached the United States, the Air Force had a deficit of more than 2,000 pilots, requiring $15 billion to train replacements. The pandemic temporarily paused airline hiring to the Air Force’s relief, reducing pilot losses, but Covid-19 also hampered pilot training, leaving the overall shortage almost unchanged. Instead of using the reprieve as an opportunity to try bolder retention initiatives, the Air Force recently placed a large wager against airline recovery and renewed airline pilot hiring.


    "Before the pandemic, the Air Force offered retention contracts as short as three years to pilots completing their initial ten-year commitments. Seizing on the collapse of airline hiring in 2020, though, the service changed the terms of its contracts. Gone are three- and four-year contracts; the shortest pilot contract is now five years, which gets you about 70 percent of the maximum retention bonus. To get the full amount authorized by Congress—$35,000 per year—the Air Force requires at least an eight-year commitment. These are hardball terms compared to past years and are a strong bet that airline pilot hiring will be weak for an extended period. 


    "Air Force pilots are poised to leave active duty, not stay, according to our research. Despite the incredibly dire economic and health conditions in 2020, only 51 percent of the Air Force’s eligible pilots signed retention contracts, a small increase from recent years. Of those pilots who signed retention contracts last year, though, we found that 33 percent signed on for only three years. The rest stayed on active duty without service commitments and are now free agents able to depart on short notice. Air Force pilots are keeping their options open and believe airline hiring will return soon, offering better opportunities.  



    Tuesday, December 1, 2020

    Monday, May 10, 2021

    The international market for fonts

     There was a time when printing was a local business, and so fonts had local markets. And the buyers were printers, so even if the ultimate customers had artistic preferences (e.g. newspapers liked to look different from books), the names of the fonts were not a big issue.

    But Microsoft's announcements of new fonts for Word has opened up a window (so to speak) on some considerations that I hadn't thought about.

    CNBC has the story, including an interview with Lucas de Groot, the designer of the previous default font, Calibri:

    Microsoft is rolling out a new default font to 1.2 billion Office users after 14 years — and the designer of the old one is surprised  by Jordan Novet

    "Coming up with the name was not easy. For both of his fonts, Microsoft wanted names that started with the letter C.

    "As de Groot put it in an email, “I had proposed Clas, a Scandinavian first name and associated with ‘class,’ but then the Greek advisor said it meant ‘to fart’ in Greek. Then I proposed Curva or Curvae, which I still like, but then the Cyrillic advisor said it meant ‘prostitute’ in Russian, it is indeed used as a very common curse word.” Microsoft legal workers also checked each possible name to see if it had already been trademarked.

    "The company came up with the name “Calibri,” and when de Groot first heard it, he found it odd. It was similar to Colibri, a genus of hummingbirds. But then Microsoft employees said that it related to calibrating the rasterizer in the company’s ClearType font rendering system."


    I realize that I like fonts with serifs, which for example distinguish my name from the acronym for Artificial Intelligence: Al and AI.

    In a sans-serif font, those are Al and AI.

    Apparently sans-serif fonts were easier to read on low resolution computer screens.

    Sunday, May 9, 2021

    Texas electricity market design: replace ERCOT experts with political appointees

     The Texas Tribune has the story:

    Overhaul of ERCOT board could replace experts with political appointees  By MITCHELL FERMAN

    "AUSTIN, Texas -- During February's deadly winter storm, Gov. Greg Abbott and many state lawmakers quickly criticized the Electric Reliability Council of Texas because several members of its large governing board reside outside of Texas.

    "Many of the out-of-state board members are experts in the electricity field, but resigned following criticism of the agency's oversight of the state's main power grid during the storm that left millions of Texans without electricity for days in freezing temperatures.

    "State lawmakers are now trying to change the way ERCOT is governed by requiring members to live in Texas and giving more board seats to political appointees - changes that experts say may do little to improve the power grid.

    "One former board member who resigned after the storm, Peter Cramton, criticized legislation for politicizing the grid operator's board.

    "These people would be political types without electricity expertise," he told The Texas Tribune.

    The Texa"s House has already approved House Bill 10, which would remove independent outside voices on the ERCOT board and replace them with five political appointees. The governor would appoint three of those people, while the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House would each appoint one. None of the appointees would be required to be electricity experts. The only requirement is that appointees live in Texas."


    Other posts on ERCOT.

    Saturday, May 8, 2021

    Akhil Vohra and Mike Shi defend their dissertations

     We're still locked out of the Economics building, but science progresses and dissertations are defended.  I've been remiss in celebrating them: here are two recent ones.

    Akhil Vohra, whose job market paper I blogged about  here.

    Akhil Vohra (top center) with Al Roth, Itai Ashlagi, Matt Jackson, Gabe Carroll and Fuhito Kojima

    And Mike Shi, one of whose papers is this one:

    The Burden of Household Debt  By ALEJANDRO MART´INEZ-MARQUINA and MIKE SHI *

    Mike Shi (upper right) with Al Roth, Jeremy Bulow, Muriel Niederle, Luigi Pistaferri, and Nick Bloom

    Welcome to the club, Akhil and Mike.

    Friday, May 7, 2021

    How can medical residency candidates be evaluated more reliably?

     Standardized tests as measures of physician aptitude are falling into disrepute and disuse.  Consequently the medical profession needs to develop better ways for evaluators (e.g. med school professors) to communicate information about applicants to residency programs.

    Here are two reflections on the current state of afairs in Orthopaedic surgery.

    Are Narrative Letters of Recommendation for Medical Students Interpreted as Intended by Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Programs?  by Egan, Cameron R. MD; Dashe, Jesse MD; Hussein, Amira I. PhD; Tornetta, Paul III MD

    Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research: February 25, 2021 - doi: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000001691

    "Background: Narrative letters of recommendation are an important component of the residency application process. However, because narrative letters of recommendation are almost always positive, it is unclear whether those reviewing the letters understand the writer’s intended strength of support for a given applicant.

    "Questions/purposes: (1) Is the perception of letter readers for narrative letters of recommendation consistent with the intention of the letter’s author? (2) Is there inter-reviewer consistency in selection committee members’ perceptions of the narrative letters of recommendation?

    "Methods: Letter writers who wrote two or more narrative letters of recommendation for applicants to one university-based orthopaedic residency program for the 2014 to 2015 application cycle were sent a survey linked to a specific letter of recommendation they authored to assess the intended meaning regarding the strength of an applicant. A total of 247 unstructured letters of recommendation and accompanying surveys were sent to their authors, and 157 surveys were returned and form the basis of this study (response percentage 64%). The seven core members of the admissions committee (of 22 total reviewers) at a university-based residency program were sent a similar survey regarding their perception of the letter.


    "Conclusion :Our results demonstrate that the reader’s perception of narrative letters of recommendation did not correlate well with the letter writer’s intended meaning and was not consistent between letter readers at a single university-based urban orthopaedic surgery residency program.

    "Clinical Relevance: Given the low correlation between the intended strength of the letter writers and the perceived strength of those letters, we believe that other options such as a slider bar or agreed-upon wording as is used in many dean’s letters may be helpful."


    CORR Insights®: Are Narrative Letters of Recommendation for Medical Students Interpreted as Intended by Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Programs? by Zywiel, Michael G. MD, MSc, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research: April 29, 2021 - doi: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000001780

    "With the upcoming transition of the USMLE Step 1 to a pass/fail score, and as we continue to gather more evidence calling into question the current selection criteria used for surgical training, programs are increasingly left to wonder how they can select learners that are most likely to succeed. Similarly, learners are increasingly left wondering how they can appropriately determine whether they are likely to succeed in a chosen specialty.


    "Going forward, we need more research within the domain of selection criteria for training. This includes identifying more reliable predictors of technical skill, nontechnical skill, as well as performance in independent practice. The failure of most current selection criteria to adequately predict performance suggests that novel, specialty-specific instruments may need to be developed, evaluated, and ultimately incorporated at the medical student level to better predict future performance."

    Thursday, May 6, 2021

    Vaccine shortages are more about congested supply chains than about patent protection: Alex Tabarrok at MR

     Alex Tabarrok has a nice post at Marginal Revolution about the actual problems in worldwide vaccine supply, involving congested supply chains much more than protected intellectual property.

    Patents are Not the Problem! by  Alex Tabarrok May 6, 2021 

    Milgrom on Auctions, Theorems, and the practice of Market Design, in the AER

     The latest issue of the AER publishes a version of Paul Milgrom's Nobel lecture:

    Auction Research Evolving: Theorems and Market Designs  By Paul Milgrom

    American Economic Review 2021, 111(5): 1383–1405

    Here are a few of the introductory paragraphs:

    "Game-theoretic modeling of auctions began in the 1960s with a pair of seminal papers by William Vickrey (1961, 1962) and the brilliant but unpublished doctoral dissertation of Armando Ortega-Reichert (1968). Robert Wilson (1977, 1979) became the next important contributor to auction theory research and, as Wilson’s student, I was inspired to make auctions and bidding the subject of my doctoral dissertation.


    "Most of my work published in academic journals is theoretical, proving theorems about the properties of abstract models, but developing and participating in real-world mechanisms requires more than that. Two important lessons that I learned from working on high-stakes auctions are that they operate in an almost infinite variety of contexts, and that this variety is the reason for the paradoxical importance of including unrealistic assumptions in models built to understand and illuminate reality. No single set of assumptions is adequate to describe all the various settings in which auctions are used, and too much specificity in models can blind the analyst to important general insights.


    "Why do economists rely on such unrealistic assumptions? It is because a well-chosen simplification can remove the dust and smoke that obscures our view of the workings of economic forces. Although we celebrate the resulting theorems for the insights they deliver, we can apply them successfully only by being vigilant, working hard to understand not just the insights that simplified analyses provide but also how the designs and rule choices they inspire must be adapted to withstand the dust and smoke and also the much larger disturbances of the particular worlds in which the mechanisms will operate."

    And here are the concluding paragraphs:

    "Auction theory has changed substantially since I made my first studies in what were still its early days. Although the “unrealistic” models of those times have proved their worth in guiding practical auction designs, some of that guidance was off point. In my own work, this showed up in the traditional analysis of the exposure problem. Despite the theoretical worst-case conclusion that exposure problems are intractable, we found that they could sometimes be quite manageable in practice.

    "For the future, simulations and computational methods are likely to be increasingly important. Yet, it still takes theory to understand problems and the scope of proposed solutions. The time has come for old methods and new to work hand in hand."

    Wednesday, May 5, 2021

    VEM FÅR VAD – OCH VARFÖR? Who Gets What--and Why in Swedish

    My 2015 book, Who Gets What and Why? has been translated into Swedish, and published by the Ohlin Institute, "Founded In The Spirit Of Bertil Ohlin."


    "The Swedish translation also contains a preface written by Tommy Andersson, professor of economics and world-leading researcher in market design who recently published the book  Algorithmmaker .

    The book will be presented in a conversation on May 6 at 12–13 between Professor Tommy Andersson and Andreas Bergström, board member of the Liberal Economics Club and vice president of the think tank Fores. Of course, there will be room for questions and posts from the audience.

    The seminar is a collaboration between the Ohlin Institute, which has published the book, and the Liberal Economics Club (LEK). 
    Connect via the link below! No pre-registration required. 

    The book can be purchased at Bokus or Adlibris .

    About the Webinar:
    Zoom meeting on 6 May at 12–13 (click on the link to join the meeting).

    Meeting ID: 842 8902 0304 Passcode: 620368"

    Tuesday, May 4, 2021

    Daron Acemoglu receives the CME Group-MSRI Prize for Innovative Quantitative Applications

     Congratulations to Daron Acemoglu, who joins a distinguished group of winners of the CME-MSRI prize. The ceremony is tomorrow.

    CME Group - MSRI Prize Virtual Seminar and 2020 Award CeremonyMay 05, 2021 (08:00 AM PDT - 10:30 AM PDT)


    2020 CME Group-MSRI Prize Announced

    The 14th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications will be awarded to  Daron Acemoglu. The ceremony will be held virtually on May 5, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Central Time (8:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time). To register for this seminar, click here.

    The CME Group-MSRI Prize is awarded to an individual or a group to recognize originality and innovation in the use of mathematical, statistical or computational methods for the study of the behavior of markets, and more broadly of economics.

    About Daron Acemoglu

    Daron Acemoglu is an Institute Professor at MIT and an elected fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society, and the Society of Labor Economists. His academic work covers a wide range of areas, including political economy, economic development, economic growth, inequality, labor economics, and economics of networks. He is the author of five books, including Why Nations Fail: Power, Prosperity, and Poverty and The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty (both with James A. Robinson).

    Acemoglu has received numerous awards and prizes, including the Carnegie Fellowship in 2017, the Jean-Jacques Laffont Prize in 2018, and the Global Economy Prize in 2019. He was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal in 2005, the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in 2012, and the 2016 BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award.

    About the event

    The event will feature a panel discussion on Perils & Promise of Big Data with the following panelists:

    • Dr. E. Glen Weyl, Political Economist and Social Technologist, Microsoft Research
    • Prof. Pascual Restrepo, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Boston University   
    • Prof. Maryam Farboodi, Jon D. Gruber Career Development Professor; and, Assistant Professor, Sloan School of Management, MIT  
    • Prof. Joshua Gans, Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and, Professor of Strategic Management, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

    Special guest Prof. Erik Brynjolfsson will present on the prizewinner's work.

    • Prof. Erik Brynjolfsson is the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Professor and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI); Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab; Ralph Landau Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR); and, holds appointments at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford Department of Economics and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)


    CME Group-MSRI Prize 2020  Selection Committee:

    • Susan Athey, The Economics of Technology Professor; Professor of Economics (by courtesy), School of Humanities and Sciences; and Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Stanford Business School; 2019 CME Group-MSRI Prize
    • David Eisenbud, prize committee chair; Director, MSRI; and, Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley
    • Jack Gould, Steven G. Rothmeier Professor and Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
    • Albert S. (Pete) Kyle, Charles E. Smith Chair in Finance and Distinguished University Professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland; 2018 CME Group-MSRI Prize
    • R. Preston McAfee, Distinguished Scientist, Google
    • Leo Melamed, Chairman Emeritus, CME Group; and, Chairman and CEO of Melamed & Associates, Inc.
    • Al Roth, Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University; Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard University; 2012 Nobel Prize
    • Myron Scholes, Frank E. Buck Professor of Finance, Emeritus, Stanford Graduate School of Business. 1997 Nobel Prize Winner 
    • Robert Wilson, The Adams Distinguished Professor of Management, Emeritus at Stanford Graduate School of Business; 2016 CME Group-MSRI Prize; 2020 Nobel Prize



    Medal awarded to the winner of the CME Group-MSRI Prize


    The CME Center for Innovation’s mission is to identify, foster and showcase examples of significant innovation and creative thinking pertaining to markets, commerce or trade in the public and private sectors.

    A list of past winners can be found on the CME Group-MSRI Prize site.