Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tanzverbot: dancing bans in Germany on Good Friday

Sven Seuken points out this story from last year related to the German ban on dancing--Tanzverbot--on Good Friday: Ban on Dancing on Good Friday Draws Protests; Conga Line in Cologne

"FRANKFURT—Every year on Good Friday, Germany becomes a little like the fictional town in the movie "Footloose"—dancing is verboten.

The decades old "Tanzverbot," or dance ban, applies to all clubs, discos and other forms of organized dancing in all German states."

Here is Wikipedia on dancing bans

Friday, April 18, 2014

School Choice: IIPSC gets a new website

The Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice has a new website. (They/we have been too busy designing school choice systems to update it in the last few years. I'm in that situation myself...)

One of its pages is on School Choice Research, which focuses on the ongoing investigations of Atila Abdulkadiroglu and Parag Pathak, with various colleagues, to assess the effects of school choice on student outcomes. The site presently lists the following representative papers:

 “Explaining Charter School Effectiveness.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 5(4): 1-27, 2013.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Did I ruin the medical labor market?

Students of economics are sometimes surprised that many of the things they know aren't known by everyone.

So a number of people have emailed me the blog post on the Forbes magazine web site that is headlined How A Nobel Economist Ruined The Residency Matching System For Newly Minted M.D.'s, and subtitled Match Magic: How One Economist Hurt Physicians and Patients.

In it, a graduating medical student who apparently just went through the Match a month ago argues that she would have done much better if there hadn't been a match, since then she could have picked a better job, in a nicer city, at a much higher wage. And she would have been spared the expense and inconvenience of interviewing. Because in a free market you are free to choose the job you want. That's the way economists get their jobs, she concludes.

A quick search of the web quickly reveals that other docs have a different view of the match and of markets more generally. Here's a post from a blog site called Skeptical Scalpel, which begins this way

"A blog post entitled "How a Nobel Economist Ruined the Residency Matching System for Newly Minted MDs" appeared on the Forbes website. In it, Amy Ho, the medical student author, lists all the things she considers wrong with the National Resident Matching Program (the "Match").

"I would have commented about this on the site itself except that I have a lot to say, and in order to post a comment, I would have had to agree to allow Forbes to post tweets in my name. No, thanks.

"The title of the post is misleading. As the author noted, the Match as been around since 1952. It was established to make the process of finding a residency position fair for all graduating medical students. Alvin Roth, the economist who shared a Nobel Prize based in part on his work with the Match algorithm, simply refined the process in the 1980s and 1990s to make it even more fair. Roth didn't ruin the Match; he made it better.

"Ms. Ho blames the Match for the fact that 25% of those enrolled in 2014 failed to obtain a residency position. But even if the Match did not exist, there would still have been more than 34,000 people seeking some 26,000 positions, and 8000 doctors would not have found jobs..."

The NRMP data are here: 
94.4% of seniors at U.S. medical schools were matched in the main match. (Table 4).

MobLab is free for academic use.

Moblab, the experimental software for using experiments to teach economics, is now free.  This should make it easier to adopt. 

I'm one of their advisors, and I'm very enthusiastic about bringing experiments into the classroom.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Long lasting effects of the window tax at Cambridge University

When I recently spoke at Cambridge, I took this photo at King's College.

Wikipedia has this to say, in general...
The window tax was a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. It was a significant social, cultural, and architectural force in England, France and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have bricked-up window-spaces (ready to be glazed or reglazed at a later date), as a result of the tax. It was introduced in 1696 and was repealed in 1851, 156 years after first being introduced. Spain and France both had window taxes as well for similar reasons.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New currencies that are a natural for laundering

This post isn't about bitcoin, or about prison economies, although it's closer to the second then the first. Neal Becker points me to this article about the use of Tide detergent as a currency in which you can buy drugs...(the article is mostly about how Tide has become a target for professional shoplifters who can fence it without too much difficulty):

Suds for Drugs
Tide detergent: Works on tough stains. Can now also be traded for crack. A case study in American ingenuity, legal and otherwise.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Polygamy in Kenya

Polygamy is an ancient practice in Kenya, but proposed new legislation that codifies that existing wives need not be consulted about new wives is causing some controversy. Here are two headlines that give the picture even before you start reading the stories...

Kenya’s new marriage law legalises polygamy
Kenyan Christian leaders oppose polygamy bill

From the first story:
"Kenya’s male-dominated parliament passed a new controversial marriage law not only legalises polygamy, but allows men to marry without consulting their other spouses. A majority of lawmakers - all men - even agreed to drop a proposal to ban bride price payments (usually in the form of cows). 
According to local news reports, half of Kenya’s 69 female MPs refused to take part in the debate held in the 349-member parliament last week. The women who did attend parliament stormed out in protest. 
Traditionally, first wives are supposed to give prior approval for their husband’s second marriage. According to Samuel Chepkong’a, the MP who proposed the amendment to this custom, however, no consultation is necessary because a woman who gets married under customary law already knows the marriage is open to polygamy. 
“When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way and a third wife… this is Africa,” Chepkong’a was quoted as saying by Kenya’s Capital News website. "
And from the second story:
"NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Christian leaders are appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta not to sign into law a proposed new marriage bill that legalizes polygamy.
"But the National Council of Churches of Kenya, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, have rejected it, saying the law will undermine Christian principles of marriage and family.
The Rev. Peter Karanja, general secretary the Kenyan church council, said the bill demeans women and fails to respect the principle of spouses’ equality in marriage."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Videos of my Marshall Lectures at Cambridge

On February 18-19 I gave two Marshall Lectures at Cambridge:
I. Labor market clearinghouses for doctors in the U.S. and U.K.
II. Kidney exchange  (and repugnant transactions)

Three videos have now been posted at this link (both seminars, and the question and answer period): 

Both lectures are about an hour; the first lecture begins with me being introduced, I start speaking at 3:35. The Q&A is about 20 minutes.