Sunday, July 5, 2015

The lectures of the The 26th Jerusalem School in Economic Theory "Dynamic Games" - 2015, are available on video

Videos of the lectures are available here:

The slides are available here

Journal of Human Trafficking, Issue 1, 2015, on kidneys

Issue 1 of the Journal of Human Trafficking contains this article by Alexander Capron and Frank Delmonico. I've highlighted in the abstract two points worth noting--the first involves some untested, but testable empirical claims about what would happen if countries in the first world allowed compensation for donors. (It would be nice to have some empirical evidence...)  The second point is that it is now agreed by everyone that financial disincentives for donating should be removed. (Let's get organized on that, shall we?)

Alexander M. Caprona & Francis L. Delmonico
pages 56-64

Published online: 28 Apr 2015

Most countries now have national legislation that outlaws both human trafficking and organ trafficking. However, international conventions and domestic laws alone have not been enough to stop the trade in organs. As of 2007, a conservative estimate was that 5% of the approximately 100,000 organs transplanted annually were derived from exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable people in society; anti-trafficking efforts have since reduced, though not eliminated, this practice. The Declaration of Istanbul (DoI) was created in 2008 to engage medical professional societies to collaborate with governments and others in combating organ sales, transplant tourism, and trafficking in human organs. In 2010, the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group (DICG) was formed to actively promote and to monitor the implementation of the DoI principles. The removal of prohibitions on organ purchases, which is now being promoted in some wealthy nations, is unlikely to shorten transplant waitlists (because organ sales crowd out voluntary, unpaid donation) and would be based on the false view that such sales do not exploit the sellers. To combat such exploitation, the DICG advocates for ratification and enforcement of the new “Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs,” as a complement the Palermo Protocol to the United Nations organized crime convention that prohibits human trafficking for organ removal. To increase ethical organ donation by living related donors, the DICG encourages countries to adopt means to cover donors’ financial costs, which now discourage donation. It also works with the World Health Organization to encourage ministries of health to develop deceased donation to its maximum potential toward the goal of achieving national self-sufficiency in organ transplantation so that patients do not need to travel to foreign destinations to undergo organ transplantation using kidneys and partial livers purchased from poor and vulnerable people. Success in combating human trafficking for organ removal and organ trafficking will be greatly enhanced through organizations like the DICG forging strong relationships with human rights organizations.

An interview in the Times of India, on Who Gets What and Why

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Refugee resettlement as a matching problem

There are a lot of displaced people in the world today, both outside their country of origin and within. The conflict in Syria is a big contributor. The poverty in Africa is another. Here's a recent NY Times story, about a UN report, whose headline summarizes the story well:
60 Million People Fleeing Chaotic Lands, U.N. Says

The international refugee accords place most responsibility for resettlement on the "country of first asylum."  If you were smuggling yourself out of Africa, or Syria, you'd have good reason, therefore, to try to get to Sweden before declaring yourself a refugee, but it's a lot easier to get to Turkey or Greece or Italy.  However some classes of refugee can seek resettlement elsewhere, and the U.S. takes a small number of these (around 70,000/year).

American policy is to try to settle refugees across the country, the idea being that this might ease assimilation, and avoid overburdening particular cities and towns. But, of course, once refugees get to the U.S., they are completely free to move around. So there's a matching problem of refugees and cities.

The case of Somali refugees makes this clear: although they've been resettled around the country, many of them quickly move to join the growing community in and around Lewiston, Maine. (Here's a nice story dated 2007...
Letter From Maine: New in Town--Somali refugees began arriving in Lewiston, Maine (pop. 36,000) six years ago. Word spread that Lewiston had good schools, a low crime rate and cheap housing — and the Somalis began arriving in droves.

And here's a Wikipedia page: History of the Somalis in Maine

The point of all this is that people aren't passive, you can't keep them where they are sent if they don't want to stay there (even if moving means giving up various kinds of refugee assistance).

Hillel Rapoport of the Paris School of Economics has been thinking of this in a European context, in which one of the questions is to which countries should refugees be resettled?  How a tradable refugee-admission quota system could help solve the EU’s migration crisis.  Even in Europe, I'm not sure how well refugees can be resettled in the countries to which they are assigned, but the barriers to moving are probably substantially higher than for moves in the U.S.

The EU is thinking about moving refugees, maybe in directions they want to go (although this isn't clear): see e.g. this recent story. EU leaders agree to relocate 40,000 migrants. "EU leaders holding late-night talks in Brussels have agreed to relocate tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived in Italy and Greece." But it's hard, and they aren't really reaching agreement: In Testy Debate, E.U. Leaders Fail to Agree on Quotas to Spread Migrants Across Bloc

So, we have a matching problem here. How to resettle refugees to places that they are willing to stay in, while meeting the other goals that we'd like to achieve?

It's not a bad question to ponder on the 4th of July, for a nation made up of immigrants, many of whom escaped from somewhere to come to the USA.

Podcast interview about Who Gets What and Why

Here's Episode 196 – Alvin Roth from The interview starts at around one and a half minutes from the beginning of the audio file.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Arrow Lecture in Jerusalem by Drew Fudenberg - Learning and Equilibrium in Games (video)

Drew begins his general-audience lecture by saying "I can't imagine anyone I would rather give a talk for than Ken Arrow." He then continues with a brief history of game theory.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Amsterdam court rules on school choice

Hessel Oosterbeek sends the following update on the school choice court case seeking to allow the exchange of school places that were allocated by a deferred acceptance algorithm with multiple tie breaking.  He writes: 

"Attached is a link to the decision of the judge in Amsterdam. Important considerations for the judge are that: i) trading would harm students who have a higher position on the waiting lists, and ii) allowing trade this year makes the system unusable in the future. The judge also writes that the rules were clear.

Overall it reads that the judge is well informed."

Google Translate allows you to make reasonable sense of the judge's decision in English...

Here is a blog post, also in Dutch, but Google Translate does a good enough job so that you can see that this is a pretty detailed discussion of various algorithms, strategy-proofness, the judge's decision, etc. It seems that the public discussion is going on at a pretty high level: 
Schoolstrijd in Amsterdam
Waarom ruilen niet mag, ook niet als beide partijen er beter van worden
(School Fight in Amsterdam

Why should not change, even if both parties are better off)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Video conversation about Who Gets What on Yahoo! Finance

Below is a link to a Yahoo! Finance video interview (about 5 minutes), made when I was in NYC for the launch of  Who Gets What and Why the first week in June. Unlike most of the interviews I've done, this one has video footage added, so instead of always looking at me and the interviewer, there are scenes of things that we're talking about--the stock exchange, an Amazon warehouse, etc..

Nobel Prize-winning economist on the elusive factors that make markets work

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Scott Kominers on market design (and a conference in August)

Prof. Scott Duke Kominers: ‘There are many new areas of market design worth exploring’

Kominers 1
Prof. Scott Duke Kominers is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, a Research Scientist at the Harvard Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, and an Associate of the Harvard Center for Research on Computation and Society. He also will be a General Co-Chair at AMMA 2015, The Third Conference on Auctions, Market Mechanisms and Their Applications. We talked with him about the upcoming conference and about the most interesting potential areas in market design and the challenges this field will face in the near future.

AMMA 2015 will be held August 8-9, 2015 in Chicago. What will the main focus of the conference be?

AMMA focuses on the theory and practice of market design, at the intersection of economics, computer science, operations research, and applied math.

What are, in your opinion, interesting potential areas researchers in the field of market design should take into account?

Prof. Scott Duke Kominers, General Co-Chair at AMMA 2015

Market design has already proven useful in addressing real-life problems in settings like school choice, entry-level labor markets, kidney exchange, and auction design. Financial market design has flourished recently, as has the design of intellectual property markets. Personally, I am especially excited about “generalized matching,” which blends together ideas from matching and auction theory to show how markets with complex contract structure can be cleared using relatively simple mechanisms. I think there’s a lot of potential for generalized matching mechanisms to be useful in new real-world applications. In addition, there are many new areas of market design worth exploring: market designers are starting to think about the structure of healthcare marketplaces and adoption services. And of course, online platforms are everywhere. Furthermore, a popular press book on market design has just been published:

What challenges do you expect market design will face in the near future?

I think one of the greatest challenges going forward is about translation: we need to find good ways of teaching what we know about marketplace design to policymakers, entrepreneurs, and other practitioners. In some cases, there is work to be done in understanding how to simplify our mechanisms in ways that would make them more accessible to their users. Meanwhile, on the research side, market design has traditionally mixed powerful theory with empirical analysis, experiments, and computational methods. As we build more and more technical facility with our existing tools, and as we add new approaches to our toolkits, it is increasingly challenging – but also increasingly important – to make sure that we let real-world structure guide our methodological choices in applied work.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Changes in repugnance over time

Bloomberg news has some animated graphics showing the change over time in repugnance--as measured by laws at the state level--for six issues that were or are controversial in America: interracial marriage, prohibition, women’s suffrage, abortion, same-sex marriage, and recreational marijuana.

This Is How Fast America Changes Its Mind, By Alex Tribou and Keith Collins

All of those have now had Federal rulings, except for recreational marijuana, which as of this writing has been legalized only in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.  Stay tuned...