Monday, December 12, 2016

Black market for babies in Malaysia

Al Jazeera files this report: BABIES FOR SALE:  Malaysia's underground baby trade

"The babies offered for sale come from a variety of women. Some are poor migrant workers who, by law, are not allowed to have children in the country. Others come from Malaysian women, including some who are forced to give up their babies to avoid the stigma associated with having a child out of wedlock.

"The buyers are often childless couples desperate to start a family and frustrated with the country's convoluted adoption procedures. But activists say some babies are bought for more sinister purposes, sometimes by syndicates who groom children for paedophiles.
"During our investigation into Malaysia's baby trade, it was easy to find a woman who wanted to sell her unborn child.

One Filipino who was six months pregnant offered her baby boy for $2,000, plus the cost of her monthly check-ups and the baby's delivery fee.

"The baby is healthy and actually the baby is starting to move now," the expectant mother told our undercover reporters who were posing as a couple who were unable to have children.

The woman said she had been working in Kuala Lumpur, but her work visa had expired. Migrant workers are not allowed to bear children in Malaysia, and her child would be stateless if born in the country."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Festival of Economics in Trento, June 1-4, on health inequality

The initial announcements for the 12th Festival of Economics in Trento in June 2017 have appeared: the theme will be health inequality.
I expect to speak about kidney exchange, and in particular global kidney exchange between rich and poor countries.

A Trento dall’1 al 4 giugno 
Il Festival dell’Economia 2017 dedicato al tema: “La salute disuguale”

Festival economia 2017: protagonista 'La salute disuguale'
Boeri, tra i partecipanti Nobel Roth e epidemiologo Marmot

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Repugnant money in England

I've written a lot about repugnance and money, but never quite like this. Here's the Telegraph story on some new banknotes:
New £5 notes contain animal fat, says Bank of England, drawing anger from vegans and vegetarians

"Vegans and vegetarians have voiced outrage after it emerged the new £5 notes contain tallow, a substance made from animal fat...
"More than 1,700 people so far have signed a petitiondemanding that the substance is no longer used in the production of the currency
"The new £5 notes contain animal fat in the form of tallow. This is unacceptable to millions of vegans & vegetarians in the UK. We demand that you cease to use animal products in the production of currency that we have to use," the petition read."

Friday, December 9, 2016

Dutch hospital director becomes anonymous kidney donor

Joris van de Klundert points me to the following story:
Voorzitter AMC geeft het goede voorbeeld als anonieme donor--
Ziekenhuisbestuurder schenkt een nier aan een onbekende
(Google translate: "Chairman AMC sets a good example as anonymous donor--
Hospital Director donates a kidney to a stranger")

"Levi (52) was operated on in his own hospital. When that happened, he would not say, because the recipient could then figure out his identity. This is undesirable, for an anonymous donation in order to protect the privacy.

"He tells his story because he wants to encourage others to think about undertaking organ donation.
"Thanks to a donor kidney dialysis patients do not have more weekly. Dialysis takes time, has serious side effects and worsens the health of patients.

"Levi is one of the seven people who have donated a kidney in the hospital this year an unknown. The Dutch Transplant Foundation (NTS) is no national records of the numbers of so-called altruistic donations, but thinks that it is a few dozen per year."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Opposition to kidney sales in Iran

Afshin Nikzad points me to the following story in Farsi, and provides the translation below. He writes:

"I edit/copy parts of the article from google translate (since it didn't give a great translation) : 
The 78 years old residing in America in an interview with US media said he had been in America for a kidney transplant and doctors had told him he should stay on the waiting list for a kidney transplant from brain death or that of one of his two children. All catch. But he found a third way through his Iranian birth certificate: buying a kidney in Iran. In his interview he talked about the youth in Iran who from the poverty and desperation were lined up to speak to him for selling their kidney.
Doctor, "Ali Husseini,” the head of the Transplantation Society of the Middle East in response to the letter, said: "Buying and selling kidney with strangers is dirty and inhumane and is banned even in countries like India and Pakistan" He also said “among all the thousands seller in the country there is not a single a rich person, all were poor and sold the kidney from poverty and desperation; undoubtedly they  have not donated their kidney.”

Dr. Mohammad Reza Ganji, head of the Iranian Society of Nephrology said “… In the past two years  63% of the transplants have been from brain-dead (that is two thousand and six hundred transplants), and this is statistically significant in the world."

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Family consent for deceased organ donation in Canada

The National Post has the story:
One in five willing organ donors in Ontario have their wishes vetoed by family — and doctors don’t argue

"Legislation in most provinces and territories outlines legal authority for organ procurement from someone who has died. Written consent, such as an organ donor card or an online registration form, is legally binding. Family members can’t revoke that consent in most Canadian jurisdictions (the law is less clear in the North West Territories) — their refusal is legally meaningless.

"Despite the legal authority to do so, every provincial donation organization in Canada has a policy that the wishes of families will be followed (except Manitoba, where the wording is vague). Alberta legislation clearly prohibits seeking family consent when donor consent was previously provided and yet an Alberta Health Services directive states “your next of kin will be asked by the donation team to sign a consent form.”

"With more than 4,000 Canadians waiting for a lifesaving transplant, the gap between the law and what actually happens is glaring.

“People who register want donation to be part of their legacy,” says Linda Wright, the former director of bioethics of the University Health Network in Toronto, where more organ transplants are performed than anywhere else in Canada.

“As a living person you want to know your wishes will be respected,” she says, but health-care providers “don’t want to further traumatize families” often shocked and devastated over the sudden loss of a loved one.

"To date, no physician in Canada has ever overridden the wishes of the family in favour of the legally binding consent of the potential donor."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Conference on Economic Design: York, United Kingdom, June 14-16, 2017

2017 Conference on Economic Design: York, United Kingdom, June 14-16, 2017

The tenth bi-annual Conference on Economic Design will be held at the University of York, United Kingdom, on three full days June 14-16 (Wed--Fri), 2017.
It will be organised by the Economics Department of the University of York and the Centre for Mechanism and Institution Design.

The conference welcomes paper submissions from many different fields such as economics, business, finance, politics, computer science, operations research, law, history relevant to mechanism or institution design in a broad sense, regardless of whether contributions are theoretical, empirical, experimental, historical or practical. Subjects include but are not limited to auctions, matching, school choice, college admission, organ exchange, decentralised markets, random market mechanisms, voting, social choice, taxation, tax reform, coalition formation, price formation, ranking and scoring, measurements of power and influence, contest, fair division, contract, bargaining, negotiation, market design implementation, pricing on electricity, pricing on public utilities, pricing on cloud computing services, online allocation mechanisms, online auctions, market design experiments, public goods experiments, behavioural mechanism design, information and incentive, digital sport market for labour, market design in transportation sector, institution and organisation, health care, health policy, health insurance, pension scheme, fiscal policy, monetary policy, growth and development, performance evaluation, arbitration, patent design, governance, etc.
York is a beautiful historical city with a rich heritage and a wealth of attractions being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK. We would like to advise you to make a hotel reservation as soon as possible if you wish to attend the conference, in order to avoid a shortage of affordable accommodation.

The Keynote Speakers are:
Sanjeev Goyal (Cambridge)

Parag Pathak (MIT)

Philip Reny (Chicago)

    Important Dates:
    Paper Submission Opens: 20-Nov-2016

    Paper Submission Deadline: 16-Feb-2017

    Notice of Accepted Papers : 1-Mar-2017 until 6-Apr-2017

    Registration Opens: 10-Mar-2017

    Early Registration Deadline: 20-Apr-2017

    Registration Deadline: 20-May-2017

      Conference Fees:
      Regular participants: Until 20-Apr-2017: £330 (GBP), after 20-Apr-2017: £380 (GBP)

      Student participants: Until 20-Apr-2017: £190 (GBP), after 20-Apr-2017: £230 (GBP)

      (Fees include a gala dinner, 3 lunches, drinks, a two-year membership of the Society for Economic Design and a subscription to the Review of Economic Design.)

      Paper Submission:
      We start to accept paper submissions from 20th Noverber 2016 until 16th February 2017.
      Each individual is allowed for only one paper submission.
      Papers should be submitted in PDF with a cover letter to
      If the author is a student, it is advised to declare it.

      Monday, December 5, 2016

      The human side of kidney exchange: video from NAS (5 minutes)

      This short (5 min) video is the first in a series From Research To Reward  by the National Academy of Sciences about the human side of the benefits from science.  It mostly follows a married, incompatible pair through their kidney exchange transplants, as part of a chain organized by the Alliance for Paired Donation (APD). The Matchmaker: An Economist Tackles Kidney Exchange from The National Academies on Vimeo.
      "When Fielding Daniel and his wife Amy discovered that it would take five years for him to to be matched with a kidney donor, they were devastated. They launched a desperate search for a life-saving solution that led them to an unexpected savior - a market economist [then] at Harvard University. 
      Learn more at

      "This short film is the first in the series From Research To Reward which examines the impact of social science research on our lives. It was created by Redglass Pictures for The National Academy of Sciences.

      "A film by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason
      Director of Photography Jon Kasbe
      Music by  Ryan Sayward Whittier
      Motion Graphics by  Kathleen Chee
      Special thanks to: Dr. Alvin Roth. Amy and Fielding Daniel, Nobel Media, Dr. Michael Rees"

      The Matchmaker: An Economist Tackles Kidney Exchange from The National Academies on Vimeo.


      The video has an animated artist's impression of the 2004 paper "Kidney Exchange" by Roth, Sonmez and Unver in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

      It also has a shout out to Susan Rees, the transplant coordinator at the APD. I've written before about the importance of the nurses and social workers who act as transplant coordinators.

      You can also link to the video at

      That last link also has a previously published companion story that I blogged about earlier:
      Matching Kidney Donors with Those Who Need Them—and Other Explorations in Economics

      The chain in which the Daniels participated was featured on the front page of the December 25, 2011 issue of Parade magazine and was started by non-directed donor Deb Shearer.

      Here's that story: The Miracle of Life: How One Woman Turned Tragedy into the Ultimate Gift

      For kidney exchange history buffs, here's my 2009 post about of the first, pioneering non-simultaneous kidney exchange chain, organized by Dr Mike Rees, who founded the APD: the original paper is here, in the NEJM: Rees, Michael A., Jonathan E. Kopke, Ronald P. Pelletier, Dorry L. Segev, Matthew E. Rutter, Alfredo J. Fabrega, Jeffrey Rogers, Oleh G. Pankewycz, Janet Hiller, Alvin E. Roth, Tuomas Sandholm, Utku Ünver, and Robert A. Montgomery, “A Non-Simultaneous Extended Altruistic Donor Chain,” New England Journal of Medicine, 360;11, March 12, 2009

      Sunday, December 4, 2016

      Matching in Budapest, Dec 14-15

      101 years of matching in Hungary will be the subject of two matching conferences are coming up in Budapest.
      On Dec 14, 100 years of matching theory in Hungary.  Here is the conference program.

      And on Dec 15:
      Programme  (also here)
      9:00-10:00Keynote presentation: Utku Unver (Boston College)
      Efficient and Incentive Compatible Liver Exchange
      10:00-10:30Coffee break
      10:30-12:30Session 1
      First Choice-Maximizing School Choice Mechanisms, by Timo Mennle (University of Zurich)
      School Choice with Voucher, by Mustafa Afacan (Sabanci University)
      Iterative Versus Standard Deferred Acceptance: Experimental Evidence, by Rustam Hakimov (WZB Berlin)
      14:00-15:00Session 2
      Testing different cardinal matching mechanisms in the field, by  Alexander Nesterov (Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg)
      Hungarian secondary school and higher education admissions data in the Databank, by Zoltán Hermann (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
      15:00-16:00Policy roundtable: Course allocation
      Estelle Cantillon (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and Utku Unver (Boston College)
      16:00-16:30Coffee break
      16:30-18:30Session 3
      Team Formation as an Incentive Device, by Xiaocheng Hu (University of Southampton)
      Assignment maximisation, by Inacio Bo (WZB Berlin)
      Refugee resettlement, by Alex Teytelboym (University of Oxford)
      In November, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences also hosted a
      Workshop on Future Directions in Computational Social Choice, which contained papers on stable matching by Ágnes Cseh: Popular Matchings and Zsuzsanna Jankó: Various Stable Matching Concepts.

      Friday, December 2, 2016

      New Zealand's new Compensation for Live Organ Donors Bill

      Here's the link to the new New Zealand legislation on removing disincentives from kidney donation, sent by  Frank McCormick.

      Compensation for Live Organ Donors Bill (formerly titled Financial Assistance for Live Organ Donors Bill)
      The purpose of this Act is to remove a financial deterrent to the donation of organs by live donors.

      9Who are qualifying donors
      A person is a qualifying donor in relation to a donor surgery if, on application under Part 3, the Director-General is satisfied that—
      the person will forgo earnings as a result of taking unpaid leave or otherwise ceasing employment to allow for his or her recuperation from the surgery; and
      both the donor surgery and the surgery to implant the organ will be carried out in New Zealand; and
      the recipient of the organ is eligible to receive services funded under the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000; and
      the organ will be collected, implanted, and dealt with lawfully.
      For the purposes of subsection (1)(d), the Director-General may assume the organ will be collected, implanted, and dealt with lawfully in the absence of information to the contrary.

      Entitlement to earnings compensation while recuperating

      10Qualifying donors entitled to earnings compensation for up to 12 weeks while recuperating


      Thursday, December 1, 2016

      Public lecture at Rice University, Dec 2

      I'll be giving the RISE Lecture at Rice (RISE = The Rice Initiative for the Study of Economics).

      Here are some other links with logistics (the event is free, but they want to know who is coming...):

      Wednesday, November 30, 2016

      Removing financial dis-incentives from kidney donation in New Zealand

      Frank McCormick points out this encouraging story from New Zealand, about removing financial disincentives from donating a kidney:

      'Recognising the heroes' - MP's bill will give organ donors full compo while they recover

      "Mr Bishop has steered a Member's Bill into law that will pay donors 100 per cent of their income for up to eight weeks plus childcare costs if needed.

      In 2015 there were 78 live donors who donated a kidney or part of their liver, and "while the rate of live and deceased donors is slowly increasing, New Zealand still has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world.

      "The evidence is pretty clear that financial barriers is one thing that people do think about," Mr Bishop said."

      Tuesday, November 29, 2016

      Game theoretic questions and the Trump transition, on Bloomberg Surveillance

      Early yesterday morning I was interviewed on Bloomberg Surveillance, about what I thought were some game theoretic questions facing the Trump transition and administration. We talked about cabinet choices as commitments, and trade and climate agreements as collective action problems...

      My contribution starts at minute 7:30 and goes until 12:35.

      Play episode 

      Monday, November 28, 2016

      Fairness for Digital Infrastructure conference, January 19-20, 2017, at Penn

      Fairness for Digital Infrastructure, January 19-20, 2017, UPenn, Philadelphia PA

      "A large part of our digital infrastructure is designed to automate decision making, and ideally should improve economic efficiency. Automated decisions now govern, among many other things, whether we are approved for credit cards, what advertisements we are shown, and what search results we see. Algorithms determine the government’s perception of an individual’s risk (e.g. at airport security) or trustworthiness (e.g. in evaluating recidivism risk for parole decisions). The aim of the workshop is to better understand issues surrounding “unfairness” associated with the use of machine learning and automated decision making. This includes the frictions that are the cause of such inadvertent unfairness, and novel technical solutions to solve these problems.
      This workshop will take place at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on January 19th and 20th 2017.
      Co-organizers: Sampath Kannan, Jamie Morgenstern, Mallesh Pai, Aaron Roth, Rakesh Vohra"

      Sunday, November 27, 2016

      Saturday, November 26, 2016

      Organ donation in Singapore: not rocking the boat

      The Singapore Medical Journal publishes an extremely cautious article on Policy options for increasing the supply of transplantable kidneys in Singapore

      It concludes with these
      In order to increase the number of LDs within the existing regulatory framework, non-repugnant incentives can be considered, such as an organ donation award that not only recognises the significance of the donor’s act but also creates meaningful conversation on the importance of organ donation in saving lives. In addition, local online platforms can be created to help ESRD patients appeal to the public for directed kidney donations.

      Meanwhile, in order to increase the number of DDs, it is critically important to establish administrative incentives for healthcare professionals to take responsibility for improving the organ transplantation process through QI programmes. Therefore, measures that can be considered include stronger incentives and training for personnel involved in donor-identification, coupled with greater transparency for both individual hospital DD actualisation rates and DCD statistics. Finally, potential donors and their immediate families can be further incentivised through a transplant priority system which favours donors’ families.

      In conclusion, greater measures to encourage and facilitate donation can be implemented at all levels to meet society’s transplantation needs. Moving forward, all relevant institutions in Singapore are encouraged to contribute their insights and experience in increasing the supply of kidneys for transplantation so that a meaningful national conversation can commence and best practices adopted to address this urgent shortage."

      Friday, November 25, 2016

      An interview in the Buenas Aires Herald (in English): "All market design is political"

      I went to Argentina hopeful that I could get some insight there into our new president-elect, since they have had a lot of experience with populist politicians. The consensus there seemed to be that we shouldn't expect campaign promises to be taken too seriously, since populist voters quickly forget them and can be mollified with new promises. And maybe we should expect inflation...

      While I was there, newspaper reporters couldn't resist asking me about the election results, together with market design...

      Here's an interview (in English) in the Buenos Aires Herald.

      ‘All market design is political’

      Thursday, November 24, 2016

      Marilda Sotomayor wins the 2016 TWAS prize for Social Science

      THE WORLD ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (TWAS), for the advancement of science in developing countries, has just announced its 2016 prizes:

      TWAS has announced the winners of the TWAS Prizes for 2016 at the Academy's 27th General Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.
      TWAS Prizes are awarded in nine fields: Agricultural Sciences, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Mathematics, Medical Sciences, Physics, and Social Sciences (called the TWAS-Celso Furtado Prize). This year, there are 10 prize winners: two from Brazil; one from Chile; two from China; two from India; one from Mexico; one from Pakistan and one from Turkey. The prize winners include one woman.
      Each TWAS Prize carries a cash award of USD15,000. The winners will lecture about their research at TWAS's 28th General Meeting in 2017, when they will also receive a plaque and the prize money.

      Here is the part about Marilda:

      Social Sciences
      • Marilda SOTOMAYOR of Brazil for her extraordinary contribution and innovative research in the field of matching markets  

      Wednesday, November 23, 2016

      My talk at UCEMA in Buenos Aires (video)

      On my visit to Argentina my first talk (of 5) was at UCEMA, on November 16. You can see some pictures here.

      Here is a video of my talk, about market design and my book Who Gets What and Why. My talk starts at minute 7:50.