Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Evolutionary Models of Financial Markets in the PNAS

 Here's the relevant part (with links) of the PNAS Table of Contents for June 29, 2021; Vol. 118, No. 26 

Evolutionary Models of Financial Markets Special Feature


Introduction to PNAS special issue on evolutionary models of financial markets

Simon A. Levin and Andrew W. Lo

Social Sciences — Economic Sciences

How market ecology explains market malfunction

Maarten P. Scholl, Anisoara Calinescu, and J. Doyne Farmer

Moonshots, investment booms, and selection bias in the transmission of cultural traits

David Hirshleifer and Joshua B. Plotkin

Social Sciences — Economic Sciences - Biological Sciences — Evolution

Evolution in pecunia

Rabah Amir, Igor V. Evstigneev, Thorsten Hens, Valeriya Potapova, and Klaus R. Schenk-Hoppé

The origin of cooperation

Nihal Koduri and Andrew W. Lo

Evolved attitudes to risk and the demand for equity

Arthur J. Robson and H. Allen Orr

Social Sciences — Economic Sciences - Physical Sciences — Statistics

High-frequency trading and networked markets

Federico Musciotto, Jyrki Piilo, and Rosario N. Mantegna


Social finance as cultural evolution, transmission bias, and market dynamics

Erol Akçay and David Hirshleifer

The landscape of innovation in bacteria, battleships, and beyond

Terence C. Burnham and Michael Travisano

Sunsetting as an adaptive strategy

Roberta Romano and Simon A. Levin

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

‘Harm Reduction’ Gains Federal Support.

 Another shot has been fired in the American war against drugs, this time in the battle between those who insist that drug abuse is everywhere and always a criminal problem, and those who think that even drug abusers might be entitled so some support in their personal fight against fatal overdosing.

The NY Times has the story.

Helping Drug Users Survive, Not Abstain: ‘Harm Reduction’ Gains Federal Support. By Abby Goodnough.

"Overdoses have surged during the pandemic. Now, for the first time, Congress has appropriated funds specifically for programs that distribute clean syringes and other supplies meant to protect users."


"Overdose deaths rose by nearly 30 percent over the 12-month period that ended in November, to more than 90,000, according to preliminary federal data released this month — suggesting 2020 blew past recent records for such deaths. The staggering increase during the pandemic has many contributing factors, including widespread job loss and eviction; diminished access to addiction treatment and medical care; and an illegal drug supply that became even more dangerous after the country essentially shut down.


"Now, with the nation reopening, the Biden administration is throwing support behind the contentious approach ... known as harm reduction. Instead of helping drug users achieve abstinence, the chief goal is to reduce their risk of dying or acquiring infectious diseases like H.I.V. by giving them sterile equipment, tools to check their drugs for fentanyl and other lethal substances, or even just a safe space to nap.

"Such programs have long come under attack for enabling drug use, but President Biden has made expanding harm-reduction efforts one of his drug policy priorities — the first president to do so. The American Rescue Act includes $30 million specifically for evidence-based harm reduction services, the first time Congress has appropriated funds specifically for that purpose. The funding, while modest, is a victory for the programs, both symbolically and practically, as they often run on shoestring budgets.


"Still, many elected officials and communities continue to resist equipping people with supplies for drug use, including the recent addition of test strips to check drugs for the presence of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which shows up in most overdose deaths. Some also say that syringes from harm reduction programs end up littering neighborhoods or that the programs cause an increase in crime. Researchers dispute both claims.

"West Virginia just passed a law making it far more difficult for syringe service programs to operate, even though it is seeing a surge in H.I.V. cases driven by intravenous drug use. North Carolina’s legislature weighed a similar proposal this spring, and elected officials in Scott County, Ind., whose syringe exchange helped curb a major H.I.V. outbreak six years ago, voted this month to shut it down. Mike Jones, a commissioner there who voted to end the program, said at the time that he feared the syringes it distributed could be contributing to overdose deaths."


Earlier post: 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Monday, June 28, 2021

Kidney exchange (including global kidney exchange), discussed at the European Society of Organ Transplantation meeting in Milan, Tuesday 29 June

 ESOT: The 20th Congress of the European Society of Organ Transplantation, meeting (by Zoom) in Milan, Italy (so the talks start at 9am pacific time, noon Eastern time in U.S., tomorrow)

Models of kidney exchange and chains

Tuesday 29 June 18:00 (CEST) 

18:00 – 18:12 Kidney exchange in UK Lisa Burnapp 

18:12 – 18:24 Kidney exchange in EU: where we are? Peter Biro

 18:24 – 18:36 Kidney exchange in US Michael Rees 

18:36 – 18:48 Ethical and legal issue in kidney exchange Frederike Ambagtsheer 

18:48– 19:00 Discussion Panellists 

19:00 Conclusions Nizam Mamode

Registration is free via

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Can same sex couples adopt and foster children in need? It's complicated...

 When religion and non-discrimination contest with each other in court, the decisions sometimes rely on the details of the case:

The WSJ has the story:

Supreme Court Exempts Catholic Foster-Care Agency From Nondiscrimination Law. Catholic Social Services is entitled to city contract despite Philadelphia ordinance requiring contractors to treat same-sex couples equally, court rules  By Jess Bravin

"The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that a Catholic social-service agency was entitled to a Philadelphia contract even if its religious views prevented it from compliance with local policies forbidding discrimination against same-sex couples.

"The court’s decision, by Chief Justice John Roberts, was a narrow one, stopping short of fundamentally extending the accommodations for religious exercise that Catholic Social Services—and several conservative justices in concurring opinions—argued the Constitution required.

"The city of Philadelphia contracts with private agencies to screen foster parents for children in need. While a broad nondiscrimination policy is written into its contracts, Chief Justice Roberts observed that the agreements also authorize the city’s human-services department to grant exceptions.

"Catholic Social Services, which for decades has received city contracts, was entitled to such an exception, the chief justice wrote, because the city can grant them for secular reasons. The city’s interest in equal treatment for same-sex couples—and in caring for children in need—wasn’t impaired, the court found, because some 20 other agencies with foster-service contracts are available to work with married LGBT foster parents."

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Covid and COVAX, lessons being learned for the next pandemic

 From the Lancet:

A beautiful idea: how COVAX has fallen short by Ann Danaiya Usher, June 19, 2021DOI:

"At the pledging summit for COVAX on June 2, 2021, hosted by Japan, Gavi finally reached its US$8·3 billion ask for the procurement and delivery of vaccines for the 92 eligible low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) this year. However, even with full financing, the COVAX roll-out has moved much more slowly than that in high-income countries (HICs). Speaker after speaker at the summit lamented the gross inequity in access to vaccines. “Today, ten countries have administered 75% of all COVID-19 vaccines, but, in poor countries, health workers and people with underlying conditions cannot access them. This is not only manifestly unjust, it is also self-defeating”, UN secretary general António Guterres told the gathering. “COVAX has delivered over 72 million doses to 125 countries. But that is far less than 172 million it should have delivered by now.” Of the 2·1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered worldwide so far, COVAX has been responsible for less than 4%.


"COVAX, managed by Gavi, along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and WHO, was designed to stand on two legs: one for HICs, which would pay for their own vaccines, and the other for 92 lower-income countries, whose doses would be financed by donor aid.

"In the so-called self-financing leg of COVAX, HICs were asked to pay upfront by mid-September, 2020, for the option to buy vaccines for their own populations. The UK, for example, paid £71 million for 27 million doses from COVAX, and Canada paid CA$220 million for 15 million doses. Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and South Korea also bought vaccine options from COVAX as self-financing countries.

"In the other leg of COVAX, vaccines for lower-income countries would be financed with donor grants through an Advance Market Commitment (AMC). The poorest of the 92 countries would receive them at no cost. Team Europe (led by Germany) and the USA have together provided US$5 billion to the COVAX AMC, Japan has given US$1 billion, and the UK, US$735 million. Most of these funds have been pledged only in the past few months.

"The grand idea of COVAX was that the combination of these two funding streams—the self-financed part and the aid-financed AMC—would give the facility the means to invest in research and development of several promising vaccine candidates. Additionally, as a pooled procurement mechanism, COVAX would have the financial muscle as a buyer to drive down prices for all participants. Once any of the COVAX portfolio vaccines had successfully undergone clinical trials and proved themselves to be both safe and effective, both self-financing and AMC countries would be allocated vaccines at the same rate, proportional to their total population size.


"Everyone knew that rich countries would enter into bilateral vaccine deals, Yamey said. But it was hoped that they would also buy into COVAX as insurance in case some vaccine candidates did not prove successful. Most of them did not. In the end, “three dozen countries bypassed COVAX and made huge deals directly with manufacturers. They were very lucky that the vaccines worked out. And since they cleared the shelves, there were not enough doses left for COVAX”, he said.


"The report of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response also pointed to the harm caused by the slow mobilisation of resources for COVAX: “Had COVAX had sufficient and readily available early funding it would have been better able to secure enough immediate supply to meet its aims”, it states.


"The original notion of a global vaccine hub more or less collapsed, and COVAX ended up using a traditional aid-financed approach, which has left lower-income countries wholly at the mercy of wealthy nations and profit-driven companies.

“It is still this model of seeing how much money you can bring in and then seeing what you can negotiate with industry based on that money”, said Elder. “The promise of COVAX from the beginning that it would be the most attractive buyer for industry because it represented the ‘global need’ obviously did not pan out.” For any future iterations of COVAX, Taylor has argued that since national leaders have a responsibility to protect their own populations, vaccine nationalism is inevitable and this should be integrated into the design from the start.

"Several global health experts point to the failure to recognise supply constraints as a major obstacle to global vaccination and emphasise diversifying and scaling up manufacturing from the beginning. This lack of recognition was a serious flaw in the COVAX design, said Gostin. “Supply shortages should have been anticipated and ramping up supplies should have been baked into the design of COVAX from the start.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Blood donation, risk groups, and blood tests

 Before blood tests were developed for hepatitis virus and later for HIV, it made sense to screen potential blood donors by whether they were members of broad risk categories.  As tests have improved (and I think we still don't have those for prion based diseases like mad cow disease), it makes more sense to rely on testing, although risky behavior that might have recently resulted in infection, not yet detectable by blood tests, is still a screening factor.

All this is by way of saying that the current U.S. limitation on donation by homosexual men is out of date. Martha Gershun points me to this recent op-ed in the Baltimore Sun:

As a sexually active gay man, I can’t donate blood or tissue in America. That’s ridiculous | By GREG BRIGHTBILL

"My blood type is O negative, I am healthy, I can run a half-marathon, I do not smoke or use drugs, I only have two to three drinks a week, and I am in a committed relationship. Yet, due to homophobic stereotypes and outdated policies, gay men like myself  -- termed “MSM” or “men who have sex with men” -- cannot freely donate blood and soft tissue in America.

"According to the most recent Food and Drug Administration guidance, updated last year, MSMs must undertake a three-month deferral from male-to-male sexual activity before blood donation. Shockingly, that’s an improvement on the original full ban on blood donation implemented in 1985 (for any male who had a sexual encounter with another male after 1977) and the 2015 version of the policy, which required a 12-month deferral.


In the UK, the guidelines have been changed, this month, to reflect the increased availability of testing. Here's the latest from the UK's NHS Blood and Transplant:

Landmark change to blood donation eligibility rules on today’s World Blood Donor Day  

"New eligibility rules that will allow more men who have sex with men to donate blood, platelets and plasma come into effect this week, marking an historic move to make blood donation more inclusive while keeping blood just as safe."

"From today (Monday) – World Blood Donor Day – the questions asked of everyone when they come to donate blood in England, Scotland and Wales will change. Eligibility will be based on individual circumstances surrounding health, travel and sexual behaviours evidenced to be at a higher risk of sexual infection.

"Donors will no longer be asked if they are a man who has had sex with another man, removing the element of assessment that is based on the previous population-based risks.

"Instead, any individual who attends to give blood - regardless of gender - will be asked if they have had sex and, if so, about recent sexual behaviours. Anyone who has had the same sexual partner for the last three months will be eligible to donate.


We screen all donations for evidence of significant infections, which goes hand-in-hand with donor selection to maintain the safety of blood sent to hospitals. All donors will now be asked about sexual behaviours which might have increased their risk of infection, particularly recently acquired infections. This means some donors might not be eligible on the day but may be in the future."


"Under the changes people can donate if they have had the same sexual partner for the last three months, or if they have a new sexual partner with whom they have not had anal sex, and there is no known recent exposure to an STI or recent use of PrEP or PEP. This will mean more men who have sex with men will be eligible to donate.

"Anyone who has had anal sex with a new partner or with multiple partners in the last three months will be not be able to give blood right now but may be eligible in the future. Donors who have been recently treated for gonorrhoea will be deferred. Anyone who has ever received treatment for syphilis will not be able to give blood."

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Health Applications Society Online Seminar Series (Inaugural seminar Friday June 25, on Kidney Exchange)

A new seminar series is being organized by the Health Applications Society of INFORMS.  I'll be giving the inaugural seminar tomorrow, June 25.

Here's the general announcement:

Health Applications Society Online Seminar Series

"Welcome to the HAS Online Seminar Series! This seminar series welcomes a broad range of healthcare modeling research topics such as healthcare operations, medical decision making, health policy, and health analytics. 

Please join our Google Group or subscribe to our Mailing List to receive the latest announcement on the upcoming seminars!

When: 1-2 pm ET (10-11 am PT) on 4th Friday of each month

Where: Zoom Webinar (Register Now!)   

Speaker: Dr. Alvin E. Roth, Stanford University

Seminar Title: Kidney Exchange: An Operations Perspective

Date and Time: June 25 (Friday), 2021, 1-2 pm ET (10-11 am PT)

Abstract: Many patients in need of a kidney transplant have a willing but incompatible (or poorly matched) living donor. Kidney exchange programs arrange exchanges among such patient-donor pairs, in cycles and chains of exchange, so each patient receives a compatible kidney. Kidney exchange has become a standard form of transplantation in the United States and a few other countries, in large part because of continued attention to the operational details that arose as obstacles were overcome and new obstacles became relevant. We review some of the key operational issues in the design of successful kidney exchange programs. Kidney exchange has yet to reach its full potential, and the paper further describes some open questions that we hope will continue to attract attention from researchers interested in the operational aspects of dynamic exchange.

Bio: Al Roth is the Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford, and the George Gund Professor Emeritus of Economics and Business Administration at Harvard. He and Lloyd Shapley shared the 2012 Nobel memorial prize in Economics "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.”  He received a Ph.D. in Operations Research from Stanford University in 1974.

Seminar Organizers and Advisory Board: This seminar series is organized by Sanjay Mehrotra (Northwestern University)Sait Tunc (Virginia Tech)Qiushi Chen (Pennsylvania State University).

The advisory board includes Ebru Bish (University of Alabama)Stephen Chick (INSEAD), and Mark Van Oyen (University of Michigan).

Special thanks to INFORMS Healthcare Application Society and all board members for their enormous support!"

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Payments to college athletes, no longer so repugnant

 The longstanding debate over whether college athletes must remain unpaid to preserve their 'amateur' status is starting to reach some conclusions.  Expect more to follow. 

The NY Times has the story:

Supreme Court Backs Payments to Student-Athletes in N.C.A.A. Case. The N.C.A.A. argued that the payments were a threat to amateurism and that barring them did not violate the antitrust laws.  By Adam Liptak and Alan Blinder

"The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that the N.C.A.A. cannot bar relatively modest payments to student-athletes in a decision that questioned the association’s monopoly power at a time when the business model of college sports is under increasing pressure.

"The decision concerned only payments and other benefits related to education, but its logic suggested that the court may be open to a frontal challenge to the N.C.A.A.’s ban on paying athletes for their participation in sports that bring billions of dollars in revenue to American colleges and universities. In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh seemed to invite such a challenge.

“Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. “And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The N.C.A.A. is not above the law.”

"In a statement on Monday, the N.C.A.A. said the ruling “reaffirms the N.C.A.A.’s authority to adopt reasonable rules and repeatedly notes that the N.C.A.A. remains free to articulate what are and are not truly educational benefits.”

"Next week, student-athletes in at least six states are poised to be allowed to make money through endorsements — not because of action by the N.C.A.A., but because of state officials who grew tired of the industry’s decades-long efforts to limit the rights of players.


"Less than two weeks before some of the new laws are scheduled to take effect in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas and allow athletes to make endorsements and make money from their social media presences, the N.C.A.A. has not agreed to extend similar rights to players nationwide. And in a setback last week for the association, senior members of Congress said that they did not expect to strike a deal for a federal standard before July 1."


Several months ago, SCOTUSblog gave a nice summary of the issues (HT: Kim Krawiec):

Amid March Madness, antitrust dispute over college athlete compensation comes to the court   By Amy Howe

"What differentiates college sports from professional sports, the NCAA stresses, is that college sports are played by amateurs – who, by definition, are not paid to play. Having amateurs in college sports, the NCAA adds, promotes competition by giving consumers a choice between college sports and professional sports; that choice is only possible, the NCAA explains, because of the agreement among the NCAA and its members on eligibility and compensation for college athletes.


"As far as the athletes are concerned, the court’s inquiry is a straightforward one that boils down to whether the NCAA’s restrictions, imposed in the name of amateurism, create enough benefits for competition to offset the harm that they create. Whether those restrictions are necessary to preserve amateurism, the athletes reiterate, is irrelevant.


"A brief by historians derides the concept of amateurism in elite college sports as a “myth that is neither necessary to the activity nor fair to the students who participate.” To the contrary, the scholars note, “top-tier college sports” have flourished even as “amateurism” in the athletes playing those sports has decreased. What’s more, the historians continue, the NCAA’s efforts to rely on amateurism as the basis to shield its eligibility rules from antitrust scrutiny is “profoundly unfair,” as those rules often led to coaches and schools making millions from poor students."

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Economists support Andreu Mas-Colell

 In El Pais (plus Google translate):

33 premios Nobel de Economía y otros 20 destacados economistas escriben en defensa de Andreu Mas-Colell. Los expertos internacionales muestran con un artículo conjunto su solidaridad con el profesor y exconsejero catalán investigado por el Tribunal de Cuentas

[33 Nobel Laureates in Economics and 20 other leading economists write in defense of Andreu Mas-Colell.  With a joint article, international experts show their solidarity with the professor and former Catalan councilor investigated by the Court of Auditors]

The letter ends with:

"We hope the situation clears up promptly. We also hope that, in the absence of specific charges against him, the Court of Auditors will avoid unwanted and unfair consequences for Professor Mas-Colell."

"The letter is signed by Philippe Aghion, George Akerlof *, Manuel Arellano, Orazio Attanasio, Robert Aumann *, Abhijit Banerjee *, Richard Blundell, Partha Dasgupta, Angus Deaton *, Eddie Dekel, Mathias Dewatripont, Peter Diamond *, Esther Duflo *, Eugene Fama *, Ernst Fehr, Drew Fudenberg, Jordi Galí, Pinelopi Goldberg, Jean-Michel Grandmont, Rachel Griffith, Lars Hansen *, Oliver Hart *, James Heckman *, Elhanan Helpman, Bengt Holmstrom *, Dale Jorgenson, Daniel Kahneman *, Mervyn King, Michael Kremer *, Finn Kydland *, Eric Maskin *, Daniel McFadden *, Robert Merton *, Paul Milgrom *, Stephen Morris, Roger Myerson *, Edmund Phelps *, Christopher Pissarides *, Paul Romer *, Alvin Roth *, Myron Scholes *, Amartya Sen *, Robert Shiller *, Christopher Sims *, Robert Solow *, Hugo Sonnenschein, Michael Spence *, Joseph Stiglitz *, Guido Tabellini, Richard Thaler *, Jean Tirole *, Robert Wilson * and Fabrizio Zilibotti.

"Names with an asterisk are Nobel laureates in economics."


Some background here:

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Monday, June 21, 2021

Matching patients with effective therapists improves mental health coutcomes

 A recent paper in JAMA Psychiatry reveals that matching patients to therapists who are effective at treating their particular issues improves mental health outcomes. (This may allow you to update your priors on either matching or therapy...)

Effect of Matching Therapists to Patients vs Assignment as Usual on Adult Psychotherapy Outcomes: A Randomized Clinical Trial  by Michael J. Constantino, PhD1; James F. Boswell, PhD2; Alice E. Coyne, MS1; et alThomas P. Swales, PhD3; David R. Kraus, PhD, JAMA Psychiatry. Published online June 9, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.1221

"Question  Can assigning patients to therapists with empirically determined strengths in treating the patients’ specific mental health problem(s) (ie, measurement-based matching) improve the outcomes of naturalistic psychotherapy compared with case assignment as usual?

"Findings  In this 2-arm, double-blind randomized clinical trial including 48 therapists and 218 outpatients, measurement-based matching promoted significantly greater reductions in patients’ general symptomatic and functional impairment, global psychological distress, and domain-specific impairment on patients’ most elevated presenting problem over 16 weeks post intake.

"Meaning  In this study, mental health care was enhanced by prospectively assigning patients to empirically good-fitting therapists, which requires minimal disruptions within a mental health care system."

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Economics of Covid: The 31st Jerusalem Advanced School in Economic Theory (June 28-30)

This year's event doesn't involve travel. (Next year in Jerusalem!)

The 31st Jerusalem Advanced School in Economic Theory: The Economics of COVID-19 (Online event)

Mon, 28/06/2021 to Wed, 30/06/2021


General Director: Eric Maskin (Harvard University)

Co-directorElchanan Ben-Porath (The Hebrew University)


List of lecturers and topics:

Glenn Ellison, MIT: Epidemiological models
Ben Golub, Northwestern University: Supply Chains
Michael Kremer, University of Chicago: Vaccines
Eric Maskin, Harvard University: Mechanism Design for Pandemics
Emily Oster, Brown University: Schools

Parag Pathak, MIT: Priority Schemes 

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Fur for fashion banned in Israel

 Here's the story from Ynet:

Israel becomes first country to ban sale of fur in fashion trade.  

"Israel announced a ban Wednesday on the sale of fur in the fashion trade, winning applause from the International Anti-Fur Coalition as the "first entire nation" to impose such a ban

"Environmental Protection Ministry said commerce in animal fur, imports and exports, will be banned except for the needs of research, study or certain religious traditions.

"Fur is used for hats called "shtreimels" worn by some ultra-Orthodox Jews.

"On this historic day, Israel has set an ethical precedent and hopefully other nations shall join them and ban the sale of barbaric and cruel blood fashion fur," the Anti-Fur coalition wrote on its Facebook page.


"The ministerial decree is to take effect in six months."


And from the Jerusalem Post:

Israel bans sale of fur to fashion industry, first country to do so  by Aaron Reich

"“The fur industry causes the deaths of hundreds of millions of animals worldwide, and inflicts indescribable cruelty and suffering,” Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said in a statement after signing the amendment, which goes into effect in six months. “Using the skin and fur of wildlife for the fashion industry is immoral and is certainly unnecessary. Animal fur coats cannot cover the brutal murder industry that makes them. Signing these regulations will make the Israeli fashion market more environmentally friendly and far kinder to animals.”

Friday, June 18, 2021

An Organ Donation Clarification Act is introduced again

 Here's a new bill introduced into Congress by Matt Cartwright:

To amend the National Organ Transplant Act to clarify the definition of valuable consideration, to clarify that pilot programs that honor and promote organ donation do not violate that Act, and for other purposes. 

The background material it refers to (cost savings, Israeli law, etc.) will be familiar to readers of this blog. (See my past posts about Congressman Cartwright's previous efforts.)  

Here's a press release from co-sponsor Joe Wilson:


"On May 28, Congressmen Joe Wilson (R-SC-02) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) re-introduced the Organ Donation Clarification Act, a bill with Democratic and Republican support to reduce barriers to organ donation and allow for a pilot program to test the effectiveness of non-cash incentives to increase the supply of organs for transplantation.


"The Organ Donation Clarification Act would:

Clarify that certain reimbursements are not valuable consideration but are reimbursements for expenses a donor incurs; and

Allow government-run pilot programs to test the effect of providing non-cash benefits to promote organ donation.

This bipartisan legislation is endorsed by the American Medical Association, Americans for Tax Reform, American Transplant Foundation, Foundation for Kidney Transplant Research, National Kidney Donation Organization and Wait List Zero.

Additional co-sponsors in the U.S. House are Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Mike Kelly (R-PA-16), David McKinley (R-WV-01), Del. Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam-At Large), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), William Timmons (R-SC-04) and Don Young (R-AK-At Large)"

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Amartya Sen celebrated in the Harvard Gazette

 Amartya Sen’s nine-decade journey from colonial India to Nobel Prize and beyond

"Many economists focus on explaining and predicting what is happening in the world. But Sen, considered the key figure at the convergence of economics and philosophy, turned his attention instead to what the reality should be and why we fall short.

“I think he’s the greatest living figure in normative economics, which asks not ‘What do we see?’ but ‘What should we aspire to?’ and ‘How do we even work out what we should aspire to?’” said Eric S. Maskin ’72, Ph.D. ’76, Adams University Professor and professor of economics and mathematics.

"Over his 65-year career, Sen’s research and ideas have touched many areas of the field. He’s credited as one of the founding fathers of modern social-choice theory with his landmark 1970 book, “Collective Choice and Social Welfare.” The book took up the late Harvard economist Kenneth Arrow’s ideas from the early 1950s about how to combine different individuals’ well-being into a measure of social well-being, intensifying interest in and expanding upon Arrow’s work.


GAZETTE: In 1998, you were awarded the economics Nobel for your many theoretical, empirical, and ethical contributions to the field. Yet it doesn’t seem to have been the career capstone for you that it often is for other laureates. You remain as busy as ever writing, working, traveling, teaching. Why?

SEN: People have given up hope that I might retire. But I like working, I must say. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve never done, when I think about it, work that I was not interested in. That is a very good reason to go on.

"I’m 87. Something I enjoy most is teaching. It may not be a natural age for teaching, I guess, but I absolutely love it. And since my students also seem not unhappy with my teaching, I think it’s a very good idea to continue doing it."

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

New legislation expressing repugnance to gender transition

 Trans people are facing new obstacles from state legislatures, concerning sports teams, healthcare, and toilets.  Here's a story from the Guardian.

Mapping the anti-trans laws sweeping America: ‘A war on 100 fronts’. In an extraordinary attack on trans rights, conservative state lawmakers proposed more than 110 anti-trans bills this year  by Sam Levin

"On the first day of Pride month, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, signed a law banning transgender girls from participating on girls’ sports teams in middle school through college.

"It was just one of 13 anti-trans bills conservative lawmakers in the US passed this year, and one of more than 110 bills that were proposed – by far the largest number in US history.


The most common anti-trans proposals were focused on sports, many of them specifically seeking to ban trans girls from competing on girls’ teams.


"The bulk of the other anti-trans bills sought to outlaw gender-affirming healthcare, with at least 36 proposals related to medical treatments across 21 states.

"In April, Arkansas passed the first ban on affirming healthcare for youth, with a policy that threatens to discipline or revoke the licenses of doctors who provide it. Experts and clinicians had strongly objected, arguing that the state was prohibiting care that is considered standard and best practice, and advocates said it was one of the most extreme anti-trans bills to ever be enacted.


"Five states also considered anti-trans bathroom bills, with Tennessee ultimately passing two separate laws. One prohibits trans kids from using bathrooms and locker rooms at school that match their gender. Another requires that if businesses allow trans people to use the correct bathrooms, they have to post a sign that says, “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”


And elsewhere (from the WSJ):

Hungary Bill to Restrict How Media Depicts Homosexuality, Transgender Rights. Legislation restricts content depicting individuals who are gay or who no longer identify with the gender they were assigned at birth  By Drew Hinshaw

"The bill—which prompted thousands of protesters to throng the capital of Budapest on Monday—is part of a wider battle within Europe, as a small camp of Central and Eastern European governments, led mainly by socially conservative nationalists, pass legislation aimed at slowing the rising acceptance of gay and transgender rights on the continent.

The region, along with neighboring Russia, has seen a series of laws and government-backed measures similar to the bill passed in Hungary. In 2013, Russia’s parliament unanimously passed a federal law banning the dissemination of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors.

"More recently, nearly 100 local governments in Poland declared themselves “Free from LGBT Ideology,” with signs posted around small towns that read “LGBT Free Zone.” Those moves prompted the EU to cancel some funding that would have gone to infrastructure and economic development in those parts of Poland.

"Last year, Romania’s parliament adopted a bill, later scrapped by a high court, restricting schools and colleges from teaching that “gender is a concept different to biological sex.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Redesigning the US Army's Branching Process, by Kyle Greenberg, Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sönmez,

 Here's a new NBER working paper that marks a significant step forward in matching soldiers to positions.

Mechanism Design meets Priority Design: Redesigning the US Army's Branching Process by Kyle Greenberg, Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sönmez, NBER WORKING PAPER 28911 DOI 10.3386/w28911,  June 2021

Army cadets obtain occupations through a centralized process. Three objectives – increasing retention, aligning talent, and enhancing trust – have guided reforms to this process since 2006. West Point’s mechanism for the Class of 2020 exacerbated challenges implementing Army policy aims. We formulate these desiderata as axioms and study their implications theoretically and with administrative data. We show that the Army’s objectives not only determine an allocation mechanism, but also a specific priority policy, a uniqueness result that integrates mechanism and priority design. These results led to a re-design of the mechanism, now adopted at both West Point and ROTC.

One of the unusual features of this paper is that the first author is both an economist and an Army officer, working in West Point's Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis:

"MAJ Greenberg is an Assistant Professor of Economics in the Department of Social Sciences and is OEMA’s Director of Long-Term Research. His primary areas of research are labor economics and public finance, with a focus on veteran employment, disability compensation, and military labor markets. Currently a Major in the U.S. Army, Kyle served tours in Iraq and Germany prior to teaching at the United States Military Academy. He earned a BS in Mathematics from the United States Military Academy in 2005 and a Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2015."


Here's a related earlier post, in which Major Greenberg discusses some of the design issues still facing the Army's assignment systems.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Crisis in Catalonia, and Andreu Mas-Colell

 Catalonia's crisis has been in the news again, with different parts of the Spanish government taking different views about reconciliation.  Here's one story, from the Guardian:

Spanish right rallies against plans to pardon Catalan separatists.  Protest at Plaza de Colón in Madrid draws 25,000 people, including leaders of three rightwing parties. by Sam Jones

But outside of any news stories I've seen, there is a set of administrative actions that threaten a variety of Catalan people who have had public service jobs, including a number of economists, among them one of the world's leading economic theorists, Andreu Mas-Colell.

On twitter, his son, the economist Alex Mas, tells some of the alarming story:

Alex Mas @AlexMasPton

"Normally I would not be posting personal developments on this website, but in this case I have a pressing concern. My dad, Spanish economist Andreu Mas-Colell, is dealing with an incredibly difficult and unjust situation.  1/

"In two weeks my parents home, his pension and his bank account may be seized by state authorities, without due process. This has to do with events in Catalonia over the last few years. That’s a lot to digest, so let me give some background.

"Following the global financial crisis my dad was called on to head the department in charge of finance and the budget in the government of Catalonia to help in the recovery from one of the worst recessions in history.

"He left his comfortable position as Secretary General of the European Research Council to take on this challenge. This was not surprising. He has been committed to public service from well before leaving Harvard in 1995 to help establish a new university in Barcelona.

"After my dad retired from public service in 2015, a new government formed. Catalonia then underwent a period of turmoil precipitated by a referendum for independence in October 2017.


"My dad did not have anything to do with the organization of the referendum, or the events that transpired. He has been living a retired life for years. And now, a full six year after retirement, he has been targeted for severe financial punishment.

"Last month, a politicized, non-judicial “tribunal” of controllers (“Tribunal de Cuentas”) made personally responsible 39 former government officials for the bulk of the expenses (back to 2011) of an entire section of the Catalan government: that concerned with foreign relations.

"The claim is that the Catalan government used public funds to promote Catalan independence, and specifically the 2017 referendum, abroad.

"What's my dad’s connection? The 18,000+ page document of accusations he was sent, and given ten days to respond to in writing (his only chance to defend himself in all this), does not specify.

"Though not stated, he seems to be targeted because he was, in the last resort, responsible for implementing the budgets voted on by parliament. It appears that for that he is now being held personally liable for a total amount that may add up to tens of millions of dollars.

"In what I understand is highly unusual, a member of the tribunal issued a written dissent against the decision. She says that the tribunal was not impartial, the decision was based on unproven allegations and contains exaggerations.


 "There will be no trial. There is simply a penalty that is handed down. The appeals will take years and can reach the EU Courts of Human Rights, but the neat trick is that in the meantime the accused will have to put up a guarantee for the full amount requested.

"Because the penalty could far exceed the combined net worth of all targeted individuals, they could have *all* of their personal property, assets and income seized. It will be complete and arbitrary expropriation. Without due process.

"This administrative body has taken this action in past cases.


"The penalties will be levied on June 29, coincidentally the day of his 77th birthday. Before then the best thing we can do is raise awareness. If you are able, I would be grateful if you can share what is going on with others, on social media or simply in real life. Thank you."


Here's a related story, for which Google Translate works reasonably well:


Professor Dora Costa has started a petition of support on, here

Monday, June 14, 2021

Repugnance to high incentives, by Robert Stüber

Here's a paper that seeks to understand why some transactions are permitted when only low incentives are offered, but banned when high incentives are offered. (Donation of human eggs is one example; high payments to participate in experiments is another...)


WZB Berlin March 2021

Abstract: A key feature of markets for repugnant transactions is that certain transactions seem to raise moral concerns only when they involve high monetary incentives. Using a framed field experiment with a representative sample, I show that these preferences exist, and I investigate why people display it. Participants can permit or prevent a third party from being financially compensated for registering as a stem cell and bone marrow donor. I find that a substantial fraction of individuals permit a low payment but prevent high monetary incentives. With the help of experimental treatment variation, I show that their preference to prevent high incentive offers is caused by the desire to protect individuals with high reservation prices. Evidence from a survey experiment with ethic committees emphasizes the practical importance of this finding. These results imply that shortages in the supply of controversial goods are unlikely to be solvable by providing higher incentives. 


Here's a short video presentation of (an early version of) the paper by Dr Stüber.  I understand that he will be moving from the WZP to NYU Abu Dhabi in September.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Blame shifting in methane emission and climate change

 Luke Coffman had a paper in 2011 reporting an experiment in which a participant had an opportunity to play a dictator game with a second participant, but faced punishment by a third party if he was judged to have behaved badly.  It was found that if the first participant "sold" the game to still another player in a way that didn't change the outcome, he faced less punishment. ("Intermediation reduces punishment and reward"AEJ Micro, Nov 2011)

I'm reminded of this by the recent NY Times story about how oil and gas companies are selling their most polluting operations (in which methane is released into the atmosphere) to small companies that continue to operate them.

Here Are America’s Top Methane Emitters. Some Will Surprise You.  Oil and gas giants are selling off their most-polluting operations to small private companies. Most manage to escape public scrutiny.  By Hiroko Tabuchi

"As the world’s oil and gas giants face increasing pressure to reduce their fossil fuel emissions, small, privately held drilling companies are becoming the country’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, often by buying up the industry’s high-polluting assets.


"In some cases, the companies are buying up high-polluting assets directly from the largest oil and gas corporations, like ConocoPhillips and BP"

Saturday, June 12, 2021

It's time to explore compensation for kidney donors: Dr. Arthur Matas in JAMA Surgery

 Dr Arthur Matas, the distinguished surgeon who directs the renal transplant program at the University of Minnesota, is tired of seeing his patients die for lack of an organ transplant.  Here's his latest plea to the profession.

A Regulated System of Incentives for Kidney Donation—Time for a Trial!, by Arthur J. Matas, MD, JAMA Surg. Published online June 2, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2021.1435

"In the past 2 decades, numerous attempts have been made to increase the number of both living donors (eg, nondirected donors, paired exchange) and deceased donors (eg, donation after circulatory death), yet there has been little change in the number of donated kidneys. With increasing need but limited supply, the waiting list for a transplant has grown and waiting times have increased, with substantial negative consequences for patients in the US. In the last 20 years, more than 89 000 candidates in the US died while waiting for a kidney. An additional 54 838 were removed from the waiting list because of becoming too sick to undergo a transplant.1

"A regulated system of incentives for donation could provide a sizable increase in the number of kidneys available for transplant. Yet incentives for kidney donation are illegal in the US. Proposals for a regulated system have existed since the 1980s. But, in addition to other objections to changing the law (discussed later in this article), the constant refrain has been “let’s see if this next innovation works first.” Although the previously described innovations have been important advances, none have significantly reduced the waiting list. Given the ongoing failure to provide the best treatment option for a large segment of the patient population, it is time to move forward with trials of incentives.


"Trials of incentives for kidney donation may not be successful. Yet while trials have been prohibited, donation rates have been stagnant and wait-listed patients are dying or becoming too sick to undergo a transplant. The American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons have endorsed moving toward pilot projects of incentives.3 The US government, recognizing the benefits of transplant, recently initiated incentivization of providers for directing kidney failure patients to transplantation9 and provided lifetime coverage for immunosuppressive drugs.10

"It is time to move past the feelings that incentives are wrong to the reality that as a result of a potentially preventable shortage of organs, patients on the waiting list are dying or becoming too sick to transplant. We need to act to determine if we can improve outcomes for these patients while providing benefit to, and not harming, incentivized donors. It is time for professional societies and patient groups to advocate for changing the law to allow trials of incentives for donation."

Friday, June 11, 2021

Governments should buy kidneys, in Journal of Applied Philosophy

 Philosophers argue differently than economists do, but can sometimes reach similar conclusions.  And (like economists) philosophers can sometimes reach very different conclusions from one another. Here's a philosopher who comes out in favor of allowing governments to pay for kidneys, to be allocated to transplant recipients without requiring any payment from them. Among the philosophical counterarguments to a market that must be dealt with along the way are those such as "it is unjust to be paid to do one's duty" (i.e. since the healthy may be argued to have a duty to the ill, we shouldn't try to reduce the shortage of organs by compensating donors because they have a duty to be altruistic...).  I don't think this is a line of argument that an economist would feel compelled to respond to.

 Why States Should Buy Kidneys, by Aksel Braanen Sterri, Journal of Applied Philosophy, First published: 02 June 2021

ABSTRACT: In this article, I argue we have collective duties to people who suffer from kidney failure and these duties are best fulfilled through a government-monopsony market in kidneys. A government-monopsony market is a model where the government is the sole buyer, and kidneys are distributed according to need, not ability to pay. The framework of collective duties enables us to respond to several of the most pressing ethical and practical objections to kidney markets, including Cécile Fabre's objection that it is unjust to be paid to do one's duty, Simon Rippon's objections that it is harmful to be pressured to sell a kidney and that a market is unfair, Richard Titmuss's crowding out objection, and Ronald Dworkin's objection that body parts should not be among the goods we owe each other.

"By prohibiting monetary compensation, it has been objected that the government takes advantage of people who feel compelled to save someone close to them. Receiving a kidney may also come with a price, a price compounded by how kidney donations are framed within the current system: as priceless gifts and extraordinary acts of sacrifice. When kidney donations are seen in this way, they may impose a burden of gratitude on the recipient; recipients may feel they can never repay such priceless gifts. ‘The tyranny of the gift’ challenges the donor and recipient's equal standing.


"Several authors, most notably Charles Erin and John Harris, have defended a government-monopsony model. My primary contribution is to present a novel defence of this model. I argue we have collective duties to provide the sick with kidneys and derivative duties to pay donors. This view provides us with resources to respond to many of the most compelling ethical objections to kidney markets."

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Congestion in applications and interviews, by Arnosti, Johari and Kanoria

 Here's a paper modeling the issue that some labor markets may face congestion related to large numbers of applications followed by costly interviews.

Nick Arnosti, Ramesh Johari, Yash Kanoria (2021) Managing Congestion in Matching Markets. Manufacturing & Service Operations Management 23(3):620-636.

Abstract. "Problem definition: Participants in matching markets face search and screening costs when seeking a match. We study how platform design can reduce the effort required to find a suitable partner. Practical/academic relevance: The success of matching platforms requires designs that minimize search effort and facilitate efficient market clearing.

"Methodology: We study a game-theoretic model in which “applicants” and “employers” pay costs to search and screen. An important feature of our model is that both sides may waste effort: Some applications are never screened, and employers screen applicants who may have already matched. We prove existence and uniqueness of equilibrium and characterize welfare for participants on both sides of the market. Results: We identify that the market operates in one of two regimes: It is either screening-limited or application-limited. In screening-limited markets, employer welfare is low, and some employers choose not to participate. This occurs when application costs are low and there are enough employers that most applicants match, implying that many screened applicants are unavailable. In application-limited markets, applicants face a “tragedy of the commons” and send many applications that are never read. The resulting inefficiency is worst when there is a shortage of employers. We show that simple interventions—such as limiting the number of applications that an individual can send, making it more costly to apply, or setting an appropriate market-wide wage—can significantly improve the welfare of agents on one or both sides of the market. 

"Managerial implications: Our results suggest that platforms cannot focus exclusively on attracting participants and making it easy to contact potential match partners. A good user experience requires that participants not waste effort considering possibilities that are unlikely to be available. The operational interventions we study alleviate congestion by ensuring that potential match partners are likely to be available.

And from the Conclusion:

"We also compare the effects of an application limit to those of other available levers: either raising application costs or lowering the wage paid to applicants. Although these interventions can lead to thesame aggregate welfare as an application limit, they differ in how they distribute this welfare. Charging fees and lowering wages both increase aggregate welfare at the expense of applicants. Although these interventions may be appropriate for a platform looking to monetize its services or attract more employers, an application limit can yield Pareto improvements in welfare and may be more suitable if the platform is primarily concerned with applicant welfare. These considerations might explain why the tutoring platform TutorZ charges tutors for each potential client that they contact, whereas the dating platforms Coffee Meets Bagel and Tinder limit the number of likes/right swipes permitted in a certain period."

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Congestion in interviews for pediatric surgery fellowships

 In recent years, pediatric surgery has been a very popular subspecialty among Stanford surgical residents (upon completion of their 5 year general surgery residency).  A lot of time and treasure is spent interviewing for these relatively few fellowship positions: except in 2020 when interviews were remote, fellowship applicants pay for their own travel, etc.  And Stanford hospitals pull back on elective surgeries while the surgical residents are on the road interviewing.  Is so much interviewing inefficient?  Many think so, and here are some data.

Analysis of the pediatric surgery fellowship application process using the Thalamus™ database, by  Saunders Lin, Jason Reminick, Ephy Love, Benedict Nwomeh, Sanjay Krishnaswami, Journal of Pediatric Surgery, Volume 56, Issue 6, June 2021, Pages 1095-1100

"Background: The pediatric surgery fellowship interview process is costly and time intensive. We hypothesized that the increasing number of interviews completed by applicants and programs have become inefficient over time.


"Results: Our dataset included 34, 41, and 45 programs, which represented 81%, 91%, and 97% of all programs in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. The median number of interviews completed per program remained constant, while the median number of interviews per applicant increased from 9.0 in 2018 to 13.0 in 2020. For 75% of programs, a program required only 4 or less candidates to fill their position. On average, 96% of program interviews do not result in a matched candidate.

"Conclusions: Programs offer interviews out of proportion to the number of positions available, and most applicants attend all interviews offered. We recommend an initial program goal of 20 interviews, which may be achieved by increased use of virtual interviews and the creation of program-level data on ideal applicant profiles.


"1. Introduction: With the advent of computer scheduling software and electronic interview platforms, data collection regarding the pediatric surgery fellowship interview process on a national level is now possible. One such platform is Thalamus, a scheduling software currently used for pediatric surgery fellowship interviews [1].

"The pediatric surgery match remains one of the most competitive fellowship application processes, with a total of 43 available positions for 78 applicants in the 2020 match cycle [2]. Published data show that extensive time and monetary resources are used every applicant cycle, with the average candidate spending around 14% of pretax salary and using up to three full weeks of residency days to complete interviews [3]. Despite these costs, however, programs continue to place considerable value on in-person interviews.


"2.1. Data source and methods: Thalamus is a comprehensive online and mobile Graduate Medical Education (GME) scheduling and communication software currently used in the pediatric surgery interview process. For applicants, features include a real-time scheduling system with online and mobile compatibility that allows applicants to self-schedule and instantly confirm their interview dates. From a program perspective, Thalamus is able to handle all interview confirmations, cancellations and rescheduling, and allows for comprehensive collection of applicant and program data both on the aggregate and individual levels.

"Thalamus was founded in 2013 and has been used in pediatric surgery since December 2016. The software is also currently used by more than 2200 residency and fellowship programs at more than 200 hospital systems across more than 100 specialties. It segments each institution by institutional ID and each program within each institution by program + ACGME ID (or a similar number for non-ACGME accredited programs). This is a cloud hosted database on the Microsoft Azure/SQL Server. Thalamus maintains several IRB approved/exempt research relationships with various specialties and other leadership organizations in Graduate Medical Education. This data is not shared between programs nor any other organization outside of Thalamus.

"We performed a retrospective investigation using Thalamus to identify population-level parameters regarding the pediatric surgery match between 2018 and 2020. This study was deemed exempt from approval by the Oregon Health and Sciences University Institutional Review Board as it did not contain patient data and applicant data was de-identified.

"3.2. Individual program and applicant data: With regards to individual program and applicant match data, the mean number of interviews offered and completed per program were similar in all three years (Table 2). The highest number of interviews a program completed was 44 in 2020. The number of interviews offered and completed per program have remained constant during the time-period. In contrast, both the mean and median number of interviews received and completed by applicants have increased. The median number of interviews completed per applicant increased 33.3% between 2018 and 2019 and an additional 12.5% between 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, the number of applicants who complete three or less interviews have been decreasing in the past three years: 25% in 2018, 20.6% in 2019, and 11.4% in 2020. Conversely, the number of applicants who completed more than 20 interviews has also been increasing in the past three years.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Matching Teach For America Teachers to Schools, by Jonathan Davis

Some years ago Clayton Featherstone and I worked with Teach for America to design their process for matching new recruits to school districts.  Now here's a paper on the next step in the assignment process: matching teachers to particular schools.

Labor Market Design Can Improve Match Outcomes: Evidence from Matching Teach For America Teachers to Schools   by Jonathan M.V. Davis

Abstract: "I worked with Teach For America (TFA) to match high school teachers to schools in Chicago using the deferred acceptance algorithm (DA), while keeping its original mechanism unchanged for elementary teachers. Comparing actual matches under DA to simulated counterfactual matches suggests half of teachers strictly prefer their matches under DA and very few teachers are worse off. This improved matching yields longer-run benefits: matching with DA increased teachers retention through their two-year commitment to TFA by between 6 and 12 percent. This provides empirical support for the hypothesis that economic design can improve match outcomes in labor markets without negotiable wages. "

"Before I began working with TFA, interview day matches were determined by what I will refer to as the First Offer Mechanism (FO). This mechanism works as follows:

"Step 1. Complete round 1 interviews. After completing the round 1 interview, each school decides whether to make an offer to the teacher they interviewed. If given an offer, the teacher must accept it or exit Teach For America.

"Step 2 ≤ k ≤ K. Complete round k interviews involving unhired teachers. Each school decides whether to make an offer to the teacher they interviewed. If given an offer, the teacher must accept it or exit Teach For America.


"In fall 2013, I contacted TFA and suggested that they may benefit from replacing FO with DA. Given TFA’s policy that teachers accept their first offer and the organizational value that “TFA teachers go wherever they are needed”, the school position proposing version of DA was selected. In order to credibly identify the impact of the change, I worked with TFA to initially implement DA at its high school interview days for its 2014 cohort. This cohort was admitted to TFA in early 2014 and committed to teaching with TFA during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. They continued using FO at the elementary interview days for this cohort."

Monday, June 7, 2021

Help for Danish kidney-exchange pairs, from a private foundation (while waiting for the health care system to cover international exchange)

 Yesterday I blogged about a particular global kidney exchange in which a Danish pair joined an American kidney exchange chain. Among the obstacles to be overcome were some of a financial nature: the Danish healthcare system declined to pay for a transplant outside of Denmark, even though no compatible kidney had been found in Denmark after several years of waiting.

The first part of the good news is that both the patient and donor are thriving, back home in Denmark.  The second part of the good news is that a private Danish foundation has stepped forward to help bridge some of the financial obstacles.

Mike Rees writes to me as follows:

"A Go Fund Me-type campaign in Denmark was initiated by a Newspaper advertisement placed by Claus Walther Jensen. Many small donations later, and a large donation from a wealthy businessman, Niels Due Jensen, himself a kidney transplant recipient, helped pay for Natacha’s transplant and associated expenses to come to the US. The APKD subsidized about $40,000 of their costs—including the donor’s lost wages, travel expenses, etc. After seeing the success, Niels Due Jensen established a fund with 5M Kroner per year for five years to support GKE for Danish citizens who cannot match in Scandinavia. See: ." 

The page opens with the story that was the subject of yesterday's blog:

"13 people died in 2019 on the waiting list for a new kidney in Denmark. In addition, 47 people were permanently removed from the waiting list because they had become too ill to receive a new kidney.

"This is because we in Denmark and Scandinavia have a fundamental shortage of donor kidneys. 
Natacha is one of the patients who should still have been on the waiting list if it was up to the Danish healthcare system. In the United States, a matching kidney was found in less than 2 hours."
The site goes on to tell the larger story:
"Do we have a well-functioning kidney exchange system in Denmark?
"In Denmark, we are not skilled enough to optimize the supply of donor kidneys, which is partly due to the fact that we do not utilize the full potential of close friends and family who want to donate a kidney to their loved ones. This is because a donor kidney must "match" the recipient's tissue type and blood type in order for the recipient to benefit from the donor kidney.

"There will on average be a match for approx. 70% of cases, which means that in 30% of cases the donor does not have the opportunity to donate, which is a big waste - which can be partially avoided!

"For almost 20 years, so-called "kidney exchange systems" have existed abroad, which allow non-matching donors to indirectly help their loved ones, by donating to a pool (and thus to another person) so that one's loved ones in return receive a matching donor kidney from the same pool. With this, there are 2 or more "pairs" who exchange donor kidneys, so that all patients get a kidney that suits them.

"In Scandinavia, a "kidney exchange system" has now also been made, which is a major step forward. However, the system is not as efficient as in the USA, for example, where the pools of donor kidneys are much larger and thus also much more efficient. The system in the USA can therefore help those patients who cannot be helped via the Scandinavian system.

"So far, the Regions and doctors have chosen not to inform the Danish kidney patients about this possibility. In addition, Region H has in two cases refused to pay for Danish kidney patients who have been part of the kidney exchange system in the USA to have a transplant performed in the USA. The cost is approx. DKK 800,000 pr. person. The two patients have had the transplants completed in the USA by self-payment and collection from benevolent Danes, respectively. Both patients are well-functioning today and make a positive contribution to Danish society."
And, to get to the point:
"Niels Due Jensen's non-profit foundation works to ensure that the Danish hospital system offers Danish kidney patients, approved for kidney transplantation in Denmark, who have a non-matching donor kidney, also approved for transplantation in Denmark, that they can be offered to join a foreign kidney exchange system and that the state will bear the costs associated with a transplant abroad. Of course, provided that the patient in question does not receive or is expected to be able to receive a donor kidney in Denmark within a reasonable time (one year).

"Until the Danish kidney patients get this right, Niels Due Jensen's non-profit foundation will donate up to 5 million every year DKK, to support people residing in Denmark who, based on an overall assessment of their own financial resources and health condition, have an urgent need for costly treatment for kidney transplantation, and possibly, for a transitional period, support the individual patient's convalescence."

I salute Mr. Jensen, and I look forward to the day when global kidney exchange will be a standard part of medical care to address the global problem of kidney failure.