Thursday, June 3, 2021

Realtors still have a few tricks up their sleeves--"Whisper listings"

 It once looked as if the growth of the internet, and increased access to home listing databases, would substantially weaken the grip of licensed Realtors on the residential housing market in the U.S. Those predictions proved premature: Realtors have kept a very large market share, while earning high fees as prices rise (based on a percentage of the sales price).  

The WSJ has part of the ongoing story:

In Tight Housing Market, Thousands of Homes Are Reserved for Certain Buyers. ‘Whisper listings,’ made directly to select customers, are growing at a time when housing inventory is near record lows  By Nicole Friedman

"In the vast majority of transactions, an agent lists a home for sale on a local database and markets the property widely to drum up interest and get the best price. But in certain cases, a broker will show an unlisted property to a small circle of potential buyers more exclusively, often in hope of getting a deal done quickly.

"These private sales are known as pocket listings, or whisper listings. They have been around for many years. But they are on the rise now even though the National Association of Realtors adopted a rule last year aimed at discouraging their use following complaints from some of its members.

"The new NAR policy requires agents to add listings to their local database within a business day of publicly advertising the listing. But there is a notable exemption: Listings can still be kept off the database if they are only shared within one brokerage, called an “office exclusive.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Strategic issues with (combined) early and late matching, by Mumcu and Saglam

  Here's a paper on early decision in college admissions. I read it with particular interest because of related discussions going on right now about early and late matching to medical residencies in the U.S. In their model, early matching introduces either or both strategic behavior and instabilities.

Strategic Issues in College Admissions with Early Decision by Ayse Mumcu and Ismail Saglam, Economics BulletinVolume 41, Issue 1, 2021

Abstract: In this paper, we consider college admissions with early decision (ED) using a many-to-one matching model with two periods. As in reality, each student commits to only one college in the ED period and agrees to enroll if admitted. Under responsive and consistent preferences for both colleges and students, we show that there exists no stable matching system, consisting of ED and regular decision (RD) matching rules, which is nonmanipulable via ED quotas by colleges or ED preferences by colleges or students. We also show that when colleges or students have common preferences and each student applies early only to the top-ranked college with respect to her RD preference, then no college has a strict incentive to offer a single-choice ED program. On the other hand, if students compromise in the ED market and make early application to colleges that are not top-ranked, then colleges may become better off when they offer ED programs than when they do not.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Domestic and foreign medical residents in the U.S.

 From the Health Affairs blog:

Graduate Medical Education Positions And Physician Supply Continue To Increase: Implications Of The 2021 Residency Match  by Edward S. Salsberg Candice Chen

"With the merger of the Accreditation Commission for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) accreditation system between 2015 and 2020, the “NRMP Main Match” now covers an estimated 96 percent of the physicians entering GME in the US. This post looks at some of the major takeaways from the 2021 NRMP Match including the implications for the physician workforce.

"Serious concerns have been expressed that there are too few residency training positions in the US and that this is contributing to a gap between the number of medical school graduates and the number of training slots, often referred to as the “GME squeeze,” and that this shortage of residency positions is also contributing to a potential future physician shortage. In 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released their annual report projecting primary and non-primary care physician shortages between 55,100 and 141,900 physicians over the next decade.


"In this piece, we focus on the 35,194 first-year positions offered in the 2021 Match, and the 26,967 US MD and DO seniors actively participating in the Match for a first-year position.  


"Key Takeaways

"The Number Of Entry GME Positions Continues To Grow 

"There were 35,194 first-year positions offered in the 2021 Main Residency Match representing an increase of 2.7 percent from 2020. Comparing the combined number of ACGME- and AOA-accredited first-year positions in 2013 with the 2021 data indicates a 24.5 percent increase in positions over the eight years for an annual increase of 2.8 percent (exhibit 1). The net increase of 6,930 first-year positions over such a short period will be surprising to many given the absence of a major new federal funding initiative or change in GME policy.


"There Are No Signs Of A Major GME Squeeze For US MD And DO Seniors

"The number of new first-year GME positions is growing more rapidly than the annual number of graduating US medical school seniors. As noted above, the number of first-year positions grew by 6,930 positions at a 2.8 percent annual rate between 2013 and 2021.


"International Medical Graduates Continue To Be A Major Source Of Residents And Physicians For America 

In 2021, there were 13,238 active IMG applicants in the NRMP Match of which 7,508 IMGs were matched to first-year positions (excluding SOAP). Overall, IMGs represented 22.5 percent of all applicants who matched to first-year positions. IMGs include two very different cohorts: US IMGs, US citizens who have gone to medical school outside of the US, mostly at for-profit schools in the Caribbean; and non-US citizens who attended medical school in a foreign country, usually their home country.


"The numbers of both types of IMGs matched in the Main Match has been increasing slowly (exhibit 2), with 4,356 non-US IMGs and 3,152 US IMGs matching to first-year positions in 2021 (excluding SOAP). Interestingly, while the number matched went up 22.5 percent for non-US IMGs and 17.1 percent for US IMGs between 2013 and 2021, the number of active applicants was more consistent, rising only 5.0 percent and 3.9 percent over the same time period for each group."

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.


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