Thursday, March 30, 2017

Market design and kidney exchange at the Royal Academy of Economics and Finance in Barcelona

I'll speak at and become a foreign member of the Royal Academy of Economics and Finance (RACEF), in Barcelona this evening.

El Nobel de Economía Alvin Roth ingresa en la Real Academia de Ciencias Económicas y Financieras

Here's a recent article about RACEF, which is based in Barcelona, while the other Royal Spanish Academies are based in Madrid:
RACEF, la Academia con sede en Barcelona que ya cotiza en el Instituto de España

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Kidney exchange, in Spanish, from the BBC

Alvin Roth, el premio Nobel de economía que sin buscarlo acabó salvando miles de vidas, Redacción BBC Mundo 14 marzo 2017

G translate (from the text): "According to data the BBC Department of Blood and Transplants gave to BBC Mundo, in 2015, 123 chain transplants were made out of a total of 1025 live kidney donations.
In Spain , a world leader in organ transplantation, the first cross-transplant was also performed for the first time in 2009. In 2015 , 125 patients received a kidney with this system ."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I speak about school choice at The Economic Club of Indiana

I'll speak in Indianapolis about Market Design and Unified Enrollment School Choice.

Dr. Alvin Roth, Stanford University and Nobel Prize in Economics

Date:  March 28, 2017

Time:  12:00 pm

Location: Indiana Convention Center


Known for his emphasis on applying economic theory to solution for “real-world” problems, Dr. Alvin Roth serves as the Craig and Susan McCaw professor of economics at Stanford University and the Gund professor of economics and business administration emeritus at Harvard University. Roth has made many significant contributions to the fields of game theory, market design and experimental economics. In 2012, Roth won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences jointly with Lloyd Shapley “for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.” Roth is a graduate of Columbia University and Stanford University

Monday, March 27, 2017

Columbia U. Economic Theory Workshop today: Stable matching in centralized and decentralized markets

I'll speak at Columbia today, partly on a paper with Qingyun Wu, and partly on the larger question of why stable matching mechanisms seem to be very important for centralized clearinghouses, but may provide less insight into how decentralized markets resolve themselves.

"Stable matching in centralized and decentralized markets"

Al Roth (Stanford) 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Blasphemy as a repugnant transaction in Pakistan

The Guardian has the latest:
Pakistan asks Facebook and Twitter to help identify blasphemers
Companies approached in effort to locate Pakistanis at home or abroad so they can be prosecuted or potentially extradited

"Under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.
The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said an official in Pakistan’s Washington embassy had approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.
He said Pakistani authorities had identified 11 people for questioning over alleged blasphemy and would seek the extradition of anyone living abroad.
Facebook said it reviews all government requests carefully, “with the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users”."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Kidney donation in Tennessee

Here's a story from the Tennessee Tribune, about Dr. Clarence Foster, an African-American transplant surgeon, who is trying to raise awareness among minority patients.

Minorities Wait for Kidney Transplants

"In 2016, 226 African American Tennesseans received a kidney transplant compared to 222 white and ten Hispanics, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The numbers are almost identical for 2015.

But, the list for Tennessee residents who need kidney transplant is far longer. Last year, 1, 283 African Americans, 1,166 Whites, 63 Hispanics and 29 Asians, 9 Native American and 29 Multi-Racial people waited for kidney transplants.

Jill Grandas confirmed that the numbers of African Americans waiting for a kidney are almost equal to white patients.

“Among patients in Tennessee waiting for a kidney, about 50 percent are African Americans and they are transplanted at almost the same rate – 48 percent of the patients who received a kidney were African American.”

However, in Tennessee, the number of African American kidney donors is far less than the need. Last year, 211 kidneys were donated by white donors, 43 by black donors, 11 by Hispanic donors and 2 Asian donors and these were from deceased donors.  Among living donors (usually a close family member) there were 55 white donors, 7 black, one Hispanic and one Asian.

“Among, 2,107,231 on the ‘Donate Life Tennessee Organ and Tissue Donor Registry,’ 9.2 percent are African Americans,” said Grandas.

“Our rate of donation from African Americans is much less than from other races. We would assume that if more African Americans would donate, more African American patients would receive an organ from an African American donor.”

“African Americans can safely be a living donor.  We need to overcome the mistrust between the community and the medical profession,” said Dr. Foster."

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bob Wilson and Game Theory: two very short videos

In connection with Bob Wilson's 2017 CME Group-MSRI prize, here's a short (2 minute)video in which Roger Myerson, Phil Reny, Bob Wilson, David Eisenbud, and I respond to the question "What is game theory?"  (Phil also remarks on what role it has played in his long happy marriage...)

And there's another short video (which I couldn't embed), talking about Bob Wilson, at this link to the CME prize page (scroll down til you see the game theory video, it's right next to it):
Robert Wilson Awarded the 2016 CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Match Day and the medical match as an economic game by Moblab

Not only is the medical Match important for doctors, now there's an in-class game from Moblab which econ instructors can use to introduce matching. Here's a post about it:

A Personal Note on Match Day and our KR Matching Game.
17 Mar 2017/ by Doug Norton 

Germany en route to annul historical convictions of gay men

Deutsche Welle has the story:
Germany set to annul historical convictions of gay men

"German men convicted on the basis of a 19th century law criminalizing homosexuality now have a chance at getting late justice in the wake of an expert study commissioned by the Anti-Discrimination Agency.
Their supposed crime was the same during the Nazi era as it was in the federal republic founded in 1949: They loved other men and had homosexual sex.
Those who were caught engaging in homosexual acts or who were denounced as homosexuals were spared no mercy by the state. The law containing the infamous Paragraph 175 outlawing sexual relations between men dates back to the 19th century, but it was applied especially zealously under Nazi rule. The law remained intact even after 1945. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969, but Paragraph 175 was not abolished until 1994.
By that time, more than 50,000 men had been convicted for being gay, something that "violated the very core of their human dignity," said Christine Lüders, the head of the government's Anti-Discrimination Authority, in Berlin on Wednesday. At her side was Martin Burgi of the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. The legal expert has compiled a study on the rehabilitation of homosexuals convicted under the law. He's confident it can be done, saying there's no legal barrier to rehabilitating the men.
"For laypeople, it's hard to understand why men convicted under Paragraph 175 by the Nazis have been rehabilitated since 2002, while verdicts handed down in the post-war era are still being upheld. The logic is as appalling as it is banal: The Nazi dictatorship was declared an unjust state; the Federal Republic of Germany, on the other hand, is based on democratic principles. That means the men who had the misfortune to be found guilty of homosexuality in the post-war era still have criminal records.
But Burgi says that "collective rehabilitation" of those affected by the law can be achieved with the help of social and democratic principles."


Here's the Associated Press story from ABC: German Cabinet OKs plan to annul homosexuality convictions

"Germany's Cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill that would annul the convictions of thousands of gay men under a law criminalizing homosexuality that was applied zealously in post-World War II West Germany.

The decision also clears the way for compensation for those still alive who were convicted under the so-called Paragraph 175 outlawing sexual relations between men.

The legislation was introduced in the 19th century, toughened under Nazi rule and retained in that form by West Germany, which convicted some 50,000 men between 1949 and 1969.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 but the legislation wasn't taken off the books entirely until 1994.

The bill approved Wednesday by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet of conservatives and center-left Social Democrats still requires parliamentary approval. "

This echoes recent events in England: see my earlier post on that

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Unmarried sex is a crime in Abu Dhabi

The Telegraph has the story:
Expat couple arrested in Abu Dhabi for sex outside of marriage

"An expatriate couple have been detained in Abu Dhabi for almost six weeks after being arrested for having sex outside of marriage.

South African Emlyn Culverwell, 29, took his 27-year-old Ukrainian fiancée, Iryna Nohai, to a medical centre in the UAE city after she developed stomach cramps.

The doctor said she was pregnant and informed authorities after they could not provide marriage certificates. They were first brought to Yas Police Station, before being moved to Al Wathba Prison."   

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Matching shipping containers to shippers

A matching problem that John Vande Vate is thinking about has to do with the large number of shipping containers that travel empty to their next destination after being unloaded. "Street turns" would match them to shipments near their previous destination.

Here's his report on the considerable upside to improved matching:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Congestion in SF public school choice

One thing that computerized school choice is supposed to do is reduce congestion that sometimes stops school districts from matching students to schools in a timely way. San Francisco has a computerized system, but they are nevertheless running into congestion this year. SFGate has the story:
High anxiety as SF public school assignments run late, By Nanette Asimov

"A school district glitch has parents biting their nails in San Francisco this week.
Thousands of dollars are on the line for families that are prepared to lay out hefty deposits for private schools by this week’s deadlines — but hope they won’t have to if they can get into a public school of their choice.
The trouble is, the San Francisco Unified School District may not be able to tell them about their public school options, from elementary through high school, before private-school down payments are due Wednesday through Friday. The district missed its March 17 deadline for sending out school-assignment letters because of “unforeseen staffing emergencies,” said spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.
“We have people who haven’t slept in days” trying to make sure that 83,000 school options for 14,000 students are all correct, Blythe said, adding that she can’t reveal more about the problem because of employee confidentiality.
"The deadline for private high school deposits is Wednesday at noon for parents applying for financial aid and Friday at noon for those paying full price. Private elementary and middle schools have a Thursday deadline. And although most private schools coordinated their deposit due dates with the public school district this year, the district’s glitch has thrown the careful planning into disarray."

Update: SF school-assignment letters to be mailed out Monday night  By Nanette Asimov Updated 4:19 pm, Monday, March 20, 2017

"The San Francisco district sends out public-school assignments by U.S. mail because “the letters provide the documentation families need to register at school sites and serves to further verify their address,” spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.
However, parents facing an imminent private-school deadline who haven’t gotten a letter by Tuesday can email
“We will do what we can to help you after March 21,” says a notice on the district’s website."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A 5 pair internal kidney exchange at Ohio State

US News and World Report has the story
A five-way kidney exchange was successfully completed at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.

"Rimmer and DeVoe were part of a five-way kidney exchange at Ohio State on Tuesday. All five recipients had a family member or friend willing to donate to them, but each was incompatible.
"More than 98,000 people in the United States, including about 2,200 in Ohio, are waiting for kidneys. Ohio State was the site of 209 kidney transplants in 2016, and roughly 40 percent were from living donors. A goal is to boost both numbers, said Washburn, who operated on two of the recipients, including Rimmer.

The five-way kidney exchange is the second largest of such procedures performed solely at Ohio State. Most such "internal" exchanges are smaller, but the university's largest, in 2011, involved 12 patients and six transplants. This week's exchange initially included 16 people, but one person was not well, so three pairs had to drop out.

Since 2010, 60 kidney transplants have been performed at Ohio State through similar internal exchange groups. Surgeons there also perform about 10 transplants annually through "external" exchanges that involve other hospitals."

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mohammad Akbarpour on Iran's kidney market

My colleague Mohammad Akbarpour at Stanford GSB is featured in their newsletter.  

He thinks about kidney transplantation from a number of different's a snippet.

Is It Ever OK to Sell (or Buy) a Kidney?

"Iran’s paid kidney market emerged after the country’s revolution at the end of the 1970s. In the early ’80s, foreign sanctions against the government inhibited its ability to get dialysis machinery. The number of Iranians needing a kidney transplant, however, kept increasing, so in 1988 the government organized a system that regulated and funded kidney transplantation. Their system included compensation for donors.
Officials euphemistically described the money given to each donor as a “gift,” says economist Mohammad Akbarpour, an assistant professor of economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business, who, has been working with several colleagues to study Iran’s market and unpaid kidney exchange markets globally. “They were paying for it, but using different words,” says Akbarpour. The system worked so well that the kidney transplant wait list in Iran was nearly eliminated by 1999.
“We have this discussion in the West about what would happen if you have a paid market for kidneys,” says Akbarpour. “The expectation has been that poor people will be selling their kidneys to rich people. But the debate has been largely based on speculations, as opposed to evidence.”
Akbarpour looked at five years’ worth of data about kidney sales and transplantation in the country, and his preliminary findings show that the average wealth of those buying kidneys is almost exactly the same as the average wealth of Iranians. Most of the payment for each transplant comes from the patient, not the government.
“It’s not just rich people who can buy a kidney in Iran,” he says. “Even poor people find the money for it, because it’s so valuable. There are also charities they can tap.”
But one suspected consequence of a cash market for kidneys did turn out to be true: Poor people sell kidneys far more than any other economic group. In Iran, most kidneys come from those whose incomes are in the bottom 25% of earners."

Friday, March 17, 2017

Match Day for American doctors and foreign medical grads

Today is Match Day for the National Resident Matching Program. Congratulations to all the newly matched residents.

Here are some articles in honor of match day, concerning difficulties in the interviewing process that proceeds the formal match, and some other things (including the US travel ban that is once again being adjudicated):

Match Day is coming up. Here’s how medical students game the residency system
"Writing love letters

This is the most common way to game the match. Applicants send emails to residency program directors expressing their interest in the program, hoping to influence how the director ranks them. Applicants sometimes end up writing multiple letters professing their love to different programs. Sometimes, they tell more than one program director that their program is their first choice.

While programs often say that they don’t adjust their rankings based on “love letters,” some do. For one of my friends, a residency director for surgery told her, “the love letter could be a deciding factor in how we rank you.”

So, we’re stuck: If you don’t send one, it might look like you’re not interested."

 2016 Dec 1;82(12):1163-1168.

Behind the Match Process: Is There Any Financial Difference Lurking Below the Specialty of Choice?

Abstract: The Match was developed in response to a chaotic residency selection process. While the match has remained relatively unchanged since it was introduced, the number of medical school graduates has increased at a rate outpacing the number of residency positions leading to a more competitive process for applicants. In May 2014, an 18-question mixed-response questionnaire was distributed to fourth year allopathic medical students via an E-mail distribution list for student affairs representatives. The individual surveys were accessible via SurveyMonkey and available for completion over the course of a 4-week period. Approximately 65.1 per cent of students performed at least one audition rotation and documented average expenditures of $2494 on housing, food, and transportation. The average applicant applied to 32 programs and attended 12 interviews while spending $4420 on the interview trail. Applicants for surgical programs applied to approximately 42 programs and attended 13 interviews compared with primary care applicants who averaged 23 programs (P < 0.001) and attended 12 interviews (P = 0.002). Surgical applicants averaged 20 days on the interview trail while spending $5500 ($423/interview) on housing, food, and transportation compared with primary care applicants averaged 19 days away from home (P < 0.05) and spending $3400 ($283/interview) on these same items (P < 0.001). The findings in our study indicate that the "Match process" contributes to the financial burden of graduating medical students and it is more expensive and time consuming for the candidates interested in surgical specialties.
No Heart Surgeon Match Day for Major Medical Center
Columbia University missed deadline to submit residents' ranking list
"Medical students hoping to train in cardiothoracic surgery at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City got some bad news over the weekend: The center will not be able to select residents in Match Day for cardiothoracic surgery.
The center confirmed Monday that it missed the deadline to submit its ranking list for residents in the specialty."
And this:( 
Travel Ban Adds Stress To 'Match Week' For Some Doctors

Here incidentally is the NRMP statement on the travel ban:

NRMP Statement On The Executive Order On Immigration

February 3, 2017
NRMP has released a statement on the Administration’s Executive Order on immigration. We ask the medical education community to support all international medical graduates and their families during these difficult times. Please be assured that NRMP will do all it can to address the uncertainties the order has created. As for the current Match cycle, we hope that applicants and programs will continue to rank each other in the order of true preference, based on the qualifications and qualities each seeks in the other.
Maria C. Savoia, M.D., Chair
Mona M. Signer, President and CEO

Thursday, March 16, 2017

What do immigrant doctors affected by the travel ban bring to America?

"What do immigrant doctors bring to America" is the question asked (and answered) by The Immigrant Doctors Project, a website compiled by a team of youthful looking scholars in response to the six country travel ban reinstated by the White House after an earlier version was found illegal by the courts.

One of the authors, Jonathan Roth, is quoted at length in a news article on the particular effect this ban may have in Los Angeles: Hundreds of doctors in LA County could be affected by new travel ban

"The executive order, which is due to go into effect on Thursday, temporarily blocks visas from being issued to citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen to "to protect the Nation from terrorist activities by foreign nationals." The ban does not include permanent residents and those who already have visas, but doctors applying for new visas or seeking to renew expired ones would require a waiver. Several states are challenging the order's constitutionality in court.
"Los Angeles is actually the metro area in the United States which has the highest number of doctors from the banned countries," according to Jonathan Roth, a Harvard PhD student and one of the researchers who worked on the Immigrant Doctors Project.  
Roth, along with other researchers from Harvard and MIT, used the location of the medical school where a doctor was trained as a way to calculate a doctor's country of origin. Since many doctors train abroad, Roth says it's likely that the number of doctors affected by the ban is much larger than their estimates. 
More than 900 doctors in Los Angeles went to medical school in one of the six countries listed in the executive order, more than three-quarters of them in Iran, he says. "
You can here a brief interview with Jonathan R. here:
Tomorrow is Match Day for new medical residents and fellows, and we have yet to hear how the immigration ban may have affected this year's match. (See earlier post: Travel bans and rank order lists for the resident match)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

AEA Econ job market scramble is open

Good luck to those on the job market. If you are still looking (for jobs or for economists to hire) this is the week to enter the Scramble.

Economics Job Market "Scramble" for new Ph.D.s

2017 Job Market Scramble Timeline:

Registration for the 2017 Job Market Scramble will open on March 15, 2017. 
The deadline for registration is March 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm ET. 

The Scramble will open for viewing by registered participants only on March 24, 2017. Scramble viewing will close on April 10, 2017. 

Brief Description:

Occasionally prospective employers of new Ph.D. economists exhaust their candidates before hiring someone during the winter/spring "job market" period. Similarly, new economics Ph.D.s seeking a job sometimes find that all of the prospective employers with whom they have interviewed have hired someone else before they have secured an appointment.
To address these problems, the AEA has established a "Job Market Scramble" web site to facilitate communication between employers and job seekers in late spring. In March, employers that continue to have an open position previously listed in Job Openings for Economists (JOE) may post a short notice of its availability (with a link to theJOE listing). Similarly, new or recent economics Ph.D. job seekers still looking for a position may post a short announcement of their continued availability, with a link to their JOE candidate profile. The web site will open for viewing to those who have listed a position or availability soon after listings close. There is no charge to participate in the "Job Market Scramble."
See the Scramble Guide for more detailed information.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Signaling interest for college admissions

I've blogged before about Initial View, a service for overseas applicants to American colleges. It provides a video interview that can be part of their application, and also a signaling mechanism by which they can send a "star" to up to two colleges, to signal particular interest.

Some colleges make clear that they value such signals: here's a paragraph from the page for international applicants of Bates College.

"Does Bates accept interviews conducted through InitialView?

Yes. InitialView includes an interview and writing sample. Please list Bates as a recipient for your interview and designate a star if Bates is a top choice college for you."

In the market for new economists, some employers have adopted the same strategy and encourage applicants to send one of their AEA signals to them:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Matchmaking. La scienza economica del dare a ciascuno il suo: Who Gets What and Why in Italian

Matchmaking. La scienza economica del dare a ciascuno il suo  (or here or here)
(Matchmaking. The economics of giving to each his own).

I guess that's a pretty good way to translate Who Gets What and Why.

Nico Lacetera writes: "I like the subtitle  "a ciascuno il suo", which refers to a latin way of saying (suum cuique  ~ to each, their own) -- in turn, this is the title of a famous novel by a major Italian contemporary writer, Leonardo Sciascia."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It's costly to interview for residency programs

Here's a debate about how to reduce the time and money cost of interviewing faced by many applicants for medical residencies and fellowships.

Medical physics has a fairly recent match, here's a debate in the Journal of Applied Clinical Medical Physics that focuses primarily on replacing on-site interviews with either electronic interviews (skype or equivalent), or with interviews at a conference, i.e. all in one place.

Maximizing the cost benefit of physics residency interview
Justus Adamson and/vs Sonja Dieterich

Saturday, March 11, 2017

US Organ donation laws by state

Here's a handy map of U.S. organ donation laws by state.

Check out the tabs for legal consent, medical examiner/coroner, and support for living donors.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Who Gets What and Why in Polish

Matchmaking. Kto co dostaje i dlaczego

Ekonomia kojarzenia stron transakcji i projektowania rynku 

From the publisher MT Biznes
Matchmaking. Who gets what and why  Alvin E. Roth

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Experimental macroeconomics

The annual experimental macro workshop and summer school that have in the past been in Barcelona will this year be at Stony Brook (the email address seems to be stonybrook in barcelona:):

The Eighth International Workshop on Theoretical and Experimental Macroeconomics will be held July 18-19, 2017 in Stony Brook, NY as part of the Stony Brook Summer Game Theory Festival.
The keynote speakers for the 2017 workshop are Xavier Gabaix (NYU) and Stephanie Schmitt-Grohé (Columbia University)
Researchers working on behavioral, experimental and theoretical approaches to addressing macroeconomic questions are invited to submit a paper for this two-day conference. The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2017. To submit a paper, please send your paper to
For several decades, macroeconomic models have been built on explicit micro-foundations about the behavior of firms, consumers and government agencies, leading to closer ties between micro/game theorists and macro theorists.  On the applied side, the assumptions and predictions of macroeconomic models have historically been tested using non-experimental field data, collected mostly by government agencies. An alternative empirical approach attracting increased attention is to evaluate these models using controlled laboratory settings with human subjects, minimizing noisy, unknown, and confounding factors present in field data. Experimental findings can be informative about questions like equilibrium selection or the efficacy of various government policies as well as for the validation of various behavioral theories.
Further information about the Workshop is available at:

The 10th Experimental Economics Summer School in Macroeconomics will be held in Stony Brook, NY, USA, from July 17-23, 2017.
The location of the 2017 summer school (and the related workshop) has been changed from Barcelona to Stony Brook, NY, USA.  This year’s summer school will be a part of the Stony Brook Summer Game Theory Festival.
For more details about the summer school including how to apply, visit the summer school webpage:
The deadline for applications is Friday, April 7, 2017.
We will provide (shared) accommodation for all invited summer school students in the dorms of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook. Depending on our funding we will additionally provide some scholarships to a few students.
Summer school students are also invited to attend the 2-day, 8th International Workshop on Theoretical and Experimental Macroeconomics from July 18-19, 2017 that will also take place in Stony Brook, USA.
Please forward this announcement to all interested parties.
Workshop and summer school organizers:
John Duffy (University of California, Irvine)
Frank Heinemann (Technische Universität Berlin)
Rosemarie Nagel (ICREA, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and Barcelona GSE)
Shyam Sunder (Yale University)

Thoughts on 'extreme altruism,' focusing on nondirected kidney donors

Here's an interesting article about altruism, non-directed kidney donors, and the difficulty of studying them (but maybe they are the opposite of psychopaths):
The Selfless Biology of the Extreme Altruist
What is the opposite of a psychopath? What is the limit of human goodness?
by Tanya Basu
(the url is as informative as the headline:

The article focuses on one particular non-directed donor, but also discusses some altruism researchers (and has a slightly confused view of economics).

Here are some sentences that particularly caught my eye:

"In 2015, Brooks and his wife were on a summer road trip. They were listening to Freakonomics, the NPR podcast spun off from the best-selling pop-economics book, when an episode called “Make Me a Match” came on. It was a profile of the Stanford economist Al Roth, whose Nobel Prize-winning work considered kidney donation matching as an economic market, maximizing its efficiency and potential. Roth’s work was unique because it looked at this unique market as an example of how non-monetary systems could run efficiently purely by matching, no system necessary. Brooks — otherwise a smooth talker — stammers when describing the power of that podcast, saying he felt he’d “been struck by lightning” when he first heard it. He shudders with emotion describing the realization that he, too, should donate his kidney."
"By September, he’d matched with a patient on the National Kidney Registry; by November, he’d given up his spare kidney to a total stranger (he later learned her name was Danielle). In February 2016, he founded Donor to Donor which matches non-direct donors with those looking for a kidney, citing his experience as an epiphany in shaping his life’s purpose. Before meeting me at the Yale Club, he’d convinced a potential donor to go through with the operation. He described the feeling of doing so as being something like getting a good grade."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Global kidney exchange (and pushback) in the American Journal of Transplantation

I've written earlier about the possibility of Global Kidney Exchange (GKE), in which foreign patient-donor pairs who cannot afford transplantation are invited to join American kidney exchange chains. The idea is that the cost of the foreign pair's surgeries and postoperative care can be paid for by the savings that result whenever an American is transplanted (because transplantation is so much cheaper than dialysis).

The March issue of the American Journal of Transplantation  contains a report of the first foreign pair, and the chain of exchanges that included them.

Curiously, the issue also contains an editorial that is profoundly ambivalent about GKE, in a way that makes clear that the issues of repugnance that surround organ donation, and incentives, and equity, and patients and donors from developing countries, are not vanishing in the face of the benefits that GKE provides to patient-donor pairs from developing countries.

Finally, for those in a hurry, here's a nice summary by Timothy Taylor on his blog the Conversable Economist: Global Kidney Exchange.

Here's our paper reporting the first global kidney exchange chain:

Kidney Exchange to Overcome Financial Barriers to Kidney Transplantation
by M. A. Rees, T. B. Dunn, C. S. Kuhr, C. L. Marsh, J. Rogers, S. E. Rees, A. Cicero, L. J. Reece, A. E. Roth, O. Ekwenna, D. E. Fumo, K. D. Krawiec, J. E. Kopke, S. Jain, M. Tan, S. R. Paloyo
American Journal of Transplantation, Volume 17, Issue 3 March 2017, Pages 782–790

Abstract: Organ shortage is the major limitation to kidney transplantation in the developed world. Conversely, millions of patients in the developing world with end-stage renal disease die because they cannot afford renal replacement therapy—even when willing living kidney donors exist. This juxtaposition between countries with funds but no available kidneys and those with available kidneys but no funds prompts us to propose an exchange program using each nation's unique assets. Our proposal leverages the cost savings achieved through earlier transplantation over dialysis to fund the cost of kidney exchange between developed-world patient–donor pairs with immunological barriers and developing-world patient–donor pairs with financial barriers. By making developed-world health care available to impoverished patients in the developing world, we replace unethical transplant tourism with global kidney exchange—a modality equally benefitting rich and poor. We report the 1-year experience of an initial Filipino pair, whose recipient was transplanted in the United states with an American donor's kidney at no cost to him. The Filipino donor donated to an American in the United States through a kidney exchange chain. Follow-up care and medications in the Philippines were supported by funds from the United States. We show that the logistical obstacles in this approach, although considerable, are surmountable.

Here's an illustration of the idea:

Figure 1

And here's the first chain, to date: the Filipino pair is pair 1 (the chain was begun by an American nondirected donor who donated to the Filipino patient, whose donor in turn continued the chain...).

And here's the accompanying editorial:
Walking a Tightrope or Blazing a Trail?
by A. C. Wiseman, J. S. Gill

Abstract: Engaging compatible kidney donor–recipient pairs from other countries for participation in a paired kidney exchange program in the United States poses a number of ethical challenges that deserve close scrutiny. Rees et al's article is on page 782.

Here's one sentence that illustrates the power of repugnance (it suggests that maybe the Filipino pair who joined the kidney exchange were really being exploited...):
"At a societal level, American patients received a disproportionate share of the societal benefit enabled by the participation of the compatible Filipino pair in KPE, which may not be adequately remedied by the payment for transplantation and posttransplant care."

Update: and here's our coauthor Kim Krawiec at the Faculty Lounge: GKE Debate in Current Issue of The American Journal of Transplantation

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Matching deceased organs to patients

Here's colorful story about the software that offers deceased donor organs to patients, via their surgeons:
Matching hearts — and kidneys and lungs. This website makes organ transplants in the US possible

Here's a UNOS page on How organs are matched.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Tom Starzl (1926-2017)

Dr. Thomas E. Starzl has passed away at 90. He pioneered the first liver transplants in the 1960's. He came to the University of Pittsburgh in 1981 (a year before I did) and was a towering figure there, a local hero as well as an international one,.  He made Pitt, and Pittsburgh a world center for transplantation, and for the education of transplant surgeons.

Here's the NY Times obituary: Dr. Thomas E. Starzl, Pioneering Liver Surgeon, Dies at 90

Here's the announcement from the University of Pittsburgh: Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., ‘Father of Transplantation,’ Dies at 90

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Third Workshop on Marketplace Innovation, Stanford, June 1-2, 2017

Third Workshop on Marketplace Innovation

Stanford University, Stanford, California

June 1-2, 2017

Abstract submission deadlineMarch 15, 2017
Notification of acceptanceApril 1, 2017
Workshop registration deadlineMay 1, 2017


Ramesh Johari, Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University
Ilan Lobel, Stern School of Business, New York University
Costis Maglaras, Columbia Business School, Columbia University
Gabriel Weintraub, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University


Markets are an ancient institution for matching the supply for a good or service with its demand. Physical markets were typically slow to evolve, with simple institutions governing trade, and trading partners generally facing a daunting challenge in finding the “right” partner. The information technology revolution, however, has generated a sea change in how markets function: now, markets are typically complex platforms, with a range of mechanisms involved in facilitating matches among participants. Recent trends point to an unprecedented level of control over the design, implementation, and operation of markets: more than ever before, we are able to engineer the platforms governing transactions among market participants. As a consequence, market operators or platforms can control a host of variables such as pricing, liquidity, visibility, information revelation, terms of trade, and transaction fees. Given these variables, market participants often face complex problems when optimizing their own decisions. In the supply side such decisions may include the assortment of products to offer and their price structure, while in the demand side they may include how much to bid for different goods and what feedback to offer about past purchasing experiences. The decisions made by the platform and the market participants interact, sometimes in intricate and subtle ways, to determine market outcomes.
In this workshop we seek work that improves our understanding of these markets, both from the perspective of the market operator and the market participants. With respect to the former we are particularly interested in work that derives useful insights on how to design these markets, taking into account their operational details and engineering and technological constraints. With respect to the market participants, we seek work that introduces novel approaches to optimize their decisions and improves our understanding of their interactions within the market. We look for a mix of approaches including modeling, theory, and empirics, using a wide range of tools drawn from operations management, game theory, auctions and mechanism design, optimization, stochastic modeling, revenue management, econometrics, or statistics.
The list of markets to be studied includes but it is not restricted to:
  • Online marketplaces, such as eBay, Etsy, etc.
  • Internet advertising, including sponsored search and display ad exchanges
  • Sharing economy markets, such as Uber/Lyft, AirBnb, etc.
  • Online labor markets, such as Amazon mTurk, Upwork, Thumbtack, etc.
  • Procurement markets, such as technology-enabled government procurement
  • Health care exchanges
  • Financial exchanges

Plenary speakers

The workshop will have several invited distinguished plenary speakers from academia and industry, including:
  • Susan Athey, Stanford GSB
  • Omar Besbes, Columbia Business School
  • Vivek Farias, MIT Sloan
  • Ashish Goel, Stanford MS&E
  • Garud Iyengar, Columbia IEOR
  • Paul Milgrom, Stanford Economics
  • Asu Ozdaglar, MIT EECS
  • Bob Phillips, Uber
  • Tuomas Sandholm, Carnegie Mellon Computer Science
  • Hal Varian, Google

Abstract submission

To present in the workshop we invite abstract submissions of at most one page. Papers will be accepted either for a regular presentation, or as a poster. There are no proceedings for this workshop, so we welcome submissions of work-in-progress, or work that is submitted or accepted for publication elsewhere. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Kdo dostává co – a proč : Who Gets What and Why in Czech

Kdo dostává co – a proč   (Who Gets What and Why--Czech translation)

Who Gets What and Why: Czech

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Retail Market for Illicit Drugs

Outlawing a market is often the first step in the design of the illegal black market that results. Here's a paper from the most recent AER on the market for crack cocaine:

A Structural Model of the Retail Market for Illicit Drugs
By Manolis Galenianos and Alessandro Gavazza

Abstract: We estimate a model of illicit drugs markets using data on purchases of  crack  cocaine.  Buyers  are  searching  for  high-quality  drugs,  but  they determine drugs’ quality (i.e., their purity) only after consuming  them.  Hence,  sellers  can  rip  off  first-time  buyers  or  can  offer  higher-quality drugs to induce buyers to purchase from them again. In  equilibrium,  a  distribution  of  qualities  persists.  The  estimated  model  implies  that  if  drugs  were  legalized,  in  which  case  purity  could be regulated and hence observable, the average purity of drugs would  increase  by  approximately  20  percent  and  the  dispersion  would decrease by approximately 80 percent. Moreover, increasing penalties may raise the purity and affordability of the drugs traded by increasing sellers’ relative profitability of targeting loyal buyers versus first-time buyers.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Who Gets What and Why in Spanish for Latin America

Here's the Spanish translation of my book Who Gets What and Why, for Latin America, published by Oceana.

Lo que sea de cada quien. La economía de las relaciones y el diseño de mercado

I gather from Manu Vespa that "Lo Que Sea De Cada Quien" is an idiom common in some parts of Latin America which means something like "To Each His Own." (More literally it seems to be "Whatever could be for each person..."

Google translate renders the title as "Whatever it is for each one. The economy of relationships and market design"

The Spanish translation for Spain was a much more literal "Who gets what and why":
Quién obtiene qué y por qué