Monday, November 24, 2014

Stanford Engineering Hero Lecture: Ken Arrow on his intellectual history and the history of Operations Research (video)

I've had occasion to think about Operations Research recently, and it's relationships with Economics.  Here's Ken Arrow recalling some early history.

Ken speaks about his intellectual history, and the history of Operations Research as a field and at Stanford. The question and answers at the end are a lot of fun too.

Ken's talk begins at around 7:30 of the video, after an introduction.
The occasion is the March 4, 2014 celebration of Ken as an Engineering Hero. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

on my reading list (but not yet read)--recent papers on school choice, resident matching, and kidney exchange

Ulrich Kamecke 

Humboldt University of Berlin - Faculty of Economics

September 29, 2014

CESifo Working Paper Series No. 4969 


We model centralized school matching as a second stage of a simple Tiebout-model and show that the two most discussed mechanisms, the deferred acceptance and the Boston algorithm, both produce inefficient outcomes and that the Boston mechanism is more efficient than deferred acceptance. This advantage vanishes if the participants get to know their priorities before they submit their preferences. Moreover, the mechanism creates artificial social segregation at the cost of the disadvantaged if the school priorities are based on ex ante known (social) differences of the applicants.

The History and Rationale of the American Urological Association Residency Matching Program

  • Steven J. Weissbart
  • Jeffrey A. Stock

  • A new perspective on Kesten's school choice with consent idea 

    Abstract We revisit the school choice problem with consent proposed by Kesten [12], which seeks to improve the efficiency of the student-optimal deferred acceptance algorithm (DA) by obtaining students' consent to give up their priorities. We observe that for students to consent, we should use their consent only when their assignments are Pareto unimprovable. Inspired by this perspective, we propose a new algorithm which iteratively reruns DA after removing students who have been matched with underdemanded schools, together with their assignments. While this algorithm is outcome equivalent to Kesten's EADAM, it is more accessible to practitioners due to its computational simplicity and transparency on consenting incentives. We also adapt this algorithm for school choice problems with weak priorities to simplify the stable improvement cycles algorithm proposed by Erdil and Ergin [8].

    Econometric Institute, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands,

    Institute of Health Policy and Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands,

    Econometric Institute, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    Abstract Barter exchange markets are markets in which agents seek to directly trade their goods with each other. Exchanges occur in cycles or in chains in which each agent gives a good to the next agent. Kidney exchange is an important type of barter exchange market that allows incompatible patient–donor pairs to exchange kidneys so the involved patients can receive a transplant. The clearing problem is to find an allocation of donors to patients that is optimal with respect to multiple criteria. To achieve the best possible score on all criteria, long cycles and chains are often needed, particularly when there are many hard-to-match patients. In this paper we show why this may pose difficulties for existing approaches to the optimization of kidney exchanges. We then present a generic iterative branch-and-price algorithm that can deal effectively with multiple criteria, and we show how the pricing problem may be solved in polynomial time for a general class of criteria. Our algorithm is effective even for large, realistic patient–donor pools. Our approach and its effects are demonstrated by using simulations with kidney exchange data from the Netherlands and the United States.

    Saturday, November 22, 2014

    Mini course in market design: video of the short course (4 lectures) I gave in Brazil

    Here is the link to lecture 1 of 4, with links to the other three lectures as well.

    IWGTS 2014 - Mini-course: Market Design

    These lectures were delivered as part of the  Conference on game theory in honor of Marilda Sotomayor: July 2014.

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    Pope Francis on euthanasia and in vitro fertilization

    In connection with recent developments concerning medically assisted suicide/death with dignity, the Catholic Church has strongly reaffirmed its opposition to that and other repugnant transactions, particularly involving reproduction.

    Pope Francis denounces euthanasia as 'sin against God'. The Pope strongly condemns the 'right to die' movement, and warns against abortion, IVF and stem cell research

    "Pope Francis denounced the right to die movement on Saturday, saying that euthanasia is a sin against God and creation.

    "The Latin American pontiff said it was a “false sense of compassion” to consider euthanasia as an act of dignity.

    "Earlier this month, the Vatican’s top bioethics official condemned as “reprehensible” the death by assisted suicide of a 29-year-old American woman, Brittany Maynard, who was suffering terminal brain cancer and said she wanted to die with dignity.

    “This woman (took her own life) thinking she would die with dignity, but this is the error,” said Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

    “Suicide is ... a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and towards those around us,” he said, describing assisted suicide as “an absurdity”.
    "The Pope also condemned in vitro fertilization, describing it as “the scientific production of a child” and embryonic stem cell research, which he said amounted to “using human beings as laboratory experiments to presumably save others.”

    “This is playing with life,” he said. “Beware, because this is a sin against the creator, against God the creator.”

    "The Pope considers the assisted suicide movement as a symptom of a contemporary “throw-away culture” that views the sick and elderly as a drain on society.

    "Francis urged doctors to take “courageous and against-the-grain” decisions to uphold church teaching on the dignity of life."

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    Congestion and signaling in college admissions

    The college application season is approaching, and Ariel Kaminer in the NY Times notes the stress and congestion: Applications by the Dozen, as Anxious Seniors Hedge College Bets

    "For members of the class of 2015 who are looking at more competitive colleges, their overtaxed counselors say, 10 applications is now commonplace; 20 is taking on a familiar ring; even 30 is not beyond imagining. And why stop there?
    "A spokeswoman for Naviance, an online tool that many high school students and their counselors use to keep track of applications, said one current user’s “colleges I’m applying to” tab already included 60 institutions. Last year the record was 86, she said.

    "A number of factors have contributed to this rapid escalation.

    "One is the growing popularity of the Common Application, a standardized form that more than 500 colleges now honor, making the process of applying to multiple institutions far easier. Another is the tough economy, which drives students to look ever farther afield for a college that can meet their financial aid needs.

    "But perhaps the most pressing factor has been plain old fear.

    “Every year the story is that college is harder to get into, so kids panic and think they have to apply to more places,” said Jim Jump, academic dean and director of guidance at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Va. The resulting surfeit of applications drives acceptance rates down even further, making the next year’s high school seniors even more panicked.
    "According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, in 1990 just 9 percent of students applied to seven or more colleges. By 2011, the year of its most recent survey, that group had risen to 29 percent.

    "In the class of 2014, according to Naviance, 16.5 percent of seniors using the system said they intended to apply to 11 to 20 colleges. (Naviance did not have figures on how many applications were actually filed.)
    "But the most compelling reason not to apply to dozens of colleges, counselors say, is that more applications do not necessarily mean better odds. “It’s not like the lottery,” said Michael Carter of St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Va.

    "Ms. Sohmer said she had found that when students file 20 or more applications, “they’ve loaded on lots of ultracompetitive schools, so their list becomes disproportionately top-heavy. Or they throw in lots of schools at the end where they’re overqualified.” A far better way to increase one’s chances, she and many others agree, is to come up with a manageable but carefully selected list of schools and get serious about them.
    "As a result, many colleges have begun emphasizing “demonstrated interest” — tiny but telling indications of how badly students want to attend. “If they’re within a reasonable distance of the campus, did they visit?” asks Patrick O’Connor, associate dean of college counseling at the Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “Did they attend a college night and fill out a card? Have they contacted a rep to ask some legitimate questions?”

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    Who Gets What--And Why: The New Economics of Matching and Market Design

    I finally finished my book on market design for a general audience:) (except for copy editing and galleys which are still to come...) The publication date (at the moment) is June 2...

    Coming in June, my book :

    Here's the publisher's blurb:
    A Nobel laureate reveals the often surprising rules that govern a vast array of activities — both mundane and life-changing — in which money may play little or no role.

    If you’ve ever sought a job or hired someone, applied to college or guided your child into a good kindergarten, asked someone out on a date or been asked out, you’ve participated in a kind of market. Most of the study of economics deals with commodity markets, where the price of a good connects sellers and buyers. But what about other kinds of “goods,” like a spot in the Yale freshman class or a position at Google? This is the territory of matching markets, where “sellers” and “buyers” must choose each other, and price isn’t the only factor determining who gets what.

    Alvin E. Roth is one of the world’s leading experts on matching markets. He has even designed several of them, including the exchange that places medical students in residencies and the system that increases the number of kidney transplants by better matching donors to patients. In Who Gets What — And Why, Roth reveals the matching markets hidden around us and shows how to recognize a good match and make smarter, more confident decisions.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Matching and market design at the SAET conference in 2015 in Cambridge, UK

    Fuhito Kojima writes:

    I'm organizing a session at SAET conference 2015;
    and I'm wondering if you could spread the word through your blog, if you have a slot for an entry.
    I am planning a session on matching and market design, and have two slots for presentations left.
    Thanks a lot in advance!


    Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory

    15th SAET Conference on Current Trends in Economics
    University of Cambridge, UK, July 27-31, 2015

    The 15th Annual SAET Conference will be held July 27-31, 2015 at the University of Cambridge, UK.

    Why some people don't register as deceased organ donors

    In The Atlantic, Tiffanie Wen reports: Why Don't People Want to Donate Their Organs?

    " In the United States alone, 21 people die everyday waiting for an organ transplant. Though about 45 percent of American adults are registered organ donors, it varies widely by state. More than 80 percent of adults in Alaska were registered donors in 2012, compared to only 12.7 percent in New York, for example. In New York alone, there are more than 10,000 people currently waiting for organ transplants. According to data compiled by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, more than 500 people died in New York last year, waiting for an organ to become available.

    "Given this shortage of organs, why don’t more people donate?

    "It’s a touchy question, something non-donors aren’t necessarily keen to answer. But experts say there is a large disparity between the number of people who say that they support organ donation in theory and the number of people who actually register. In the U.K., for example, more than 90 percent of people say they support organ donation in opinion polls, but less than one-third are registered donors. What keeps well-intentioned people from ultimately donating is something that academics, doctors, and organ-donation activists are trying to figure out.

    "In a recent literature review, researchers at the University of Geneva examined several social and psychological reasons why people choose not to donate, either by not registering as an organ donor during their lives, or electing not to donate the organs of their next of kin.

    "The study cites mistrust in the medical field and lack of understanding about brain death as major barriers to donation. A 2002 study in Australia, for example, illustrates the controversy surrounding brain death. Some participants indicated that they wouldn’t donate the organs of their next of kin if his or her heart were still beating, even if they were proclaimed brain-dead.

    "Studies have also shown that the less people trust medical professionals, the less likely they are to donate. The mistrust can come from personal experience—one study in New York showed, for example, that next of kin who perceived a lower quality of care during a loved one’s final days were less likely to consent to donation—or from misconceptions about how the medical community treats registered organ donors.

    “There are a lot of people who subscribe to the belief that if a doctor knows you are a registered donor, they won’t do everything they can to save your life,” says Brian Quick, an associate professor of communication at the University of Illinois."

    HT: Zeeshan Butt