Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Podcast: Russ Roberts interviews me on EconTalk, about Who Gets What and Why

 Matching Markets: EconTalk Episode with Alvin Roth--Hosted by Russ Roberts, a one-hour podcast/interview about my new book (which you can buy here:)

Tim Harford reviews Who Gets What and Why in the FT

Tim Harford's review in the Financial Times is here: In search of the perfect match

His closing paragraph:
"Economists such as Alvin Roth are like engineers or doctors. They cannot settle for understanding a system in theory; they must solve practical problems too. It’s a hopeful direction for economics — and an essential one, if economists aren’t to be left on the shelf themselves."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Straw in the wind: Google's Waze is piloting a ridesharing marketplace in Israel

Ynet has the story:
Google's Waze to start carpooling pilot program in Israel
Mapping company launching RideWith, which will allow commuters to pay fellow drivers a small fee to share rides with the help of Waze's navigation system

"Google-owned online mapping company Waze is launching a carpooling pilot program in Israel where commuters pay fellow drivers a small fee for a ride to and from work.

"The new application, called RideWith, will use Waze's navigation system to learn the routes drivers most frequently take to work and match them up with people looking for a ride in the same direction.
...
""We're conducting a small, private beta test in the greater Tel Aviv area for a carpool concept, but we have nothing further to announce at this time," Waze told Reuters of its foray into the increasingly competitive field of ride-sharing.

Drivers will be limited to just two journeys a day and will not be able to earn a salary from RideWith, a source close to the company said, differentiating it from businesses such as Uber, where drivers can turn a profit.

Should RideWith be rolled out globally, this limitation could help it avoid the backlash Uber is facing in a number of countries that want to protect professional taxi drivers."
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Stay tuned...

New York City’s high school admissions process: an excerpt from Who Gets What and Why, in Chalkbeat

Chalkbeat has a brief excerpt from my new book, Who Gets What and Why:

Here's the link to what they have to say (or rather what they have me saying, in an excerpt from Chapter 9 "Back to School"):
Why New York City’s high school admissions process only works most of the time

Below are two paragraphs from the excerpt, concerning Neil Dorosin, who worked for the NYC Department of Education at the time, and is now the Johnny Appleseed of school choice as the director of the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice (IIPSC):

One reason that principals gained confidence was that DOE staffers did a good job communicating to them how the new system would work. Crucial in that effort was Neil Dorosin, the DOE’s director of high school operations. The task of informing everyone about the new algorithm fell to Neil and his colleagues in the Office of Enrollment Services. Among those he had to educate was his ultimate boss, Chancellor Joel Klein.

“One day I got called down to talk to him,” Neil recalls. “He was upset because he had a friend whose child didn’t get into their first-choice school. The friend had a cousin whose child had gotten into the school, and it was their last choice. I had to explain why the system had to function that way” (i.e., to make it safe to list true preferences).

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?)


DOI:10.1080/23322705.2015.1011491
Alexander M. Caprona & Francis L. Delmonico
pages 56-64

Published online: 28 Apr 2015

Abstract
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 Smartpeoplepodcast.com. 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...
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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