Monday, November 30, 2015

An attempt to stem the uncontrolled flow of migrants to Europe

The NY Times has the story: E.U. Offers Turkey 3 Billion Euros to Stem Migrant Flow

"Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, according to diplomats, will be promised 3 billion euros, or about $3.2 billion, in European aid and other inducements in exchange for Turkish action to stop migrants, most of them from the Middle East and Afghanistan, from reaching Greece and other countries on Europe’s outer fringe.
"Speaking to reporters in Brussels before the meeting, Ms. Merkel said Europe had many reasons to work closely with Turkey but that the essential part of the negotiations was the need to “replace illegal migration with legal migration.”
"Europe wants Turkey’s help in identifying genuine refugees, notably Syrians, who would be allowed entry in an orderly fashion, and in halting people fleeing poverty who do not have an obvious right to protection under international law.

"Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, the body representing European leaders, set out Europe’s objective in blunt terms: “Our main goal is to stem the flow of migrants to Europe,” he said, describing Turkey as a “key partner” on issues including counterterrorism and the civil war in Syria.

"But he stressed that Europe itself needed to do more to secure its external borders and that it could not “outsource this obligation to any third country,” like Turkey. Failing to protect the Continent’s outer borders, he warned, would mean that one of Europe’s most important achievements, the 26-nation visa-free zone known as Schengen, “will become history.”

"Later, as the meeting got underway, Mr. Tusk told the summit that 1.5 million migrants had entered the European Union this year."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Incentives change how we think--Tyler Cowen on Sandro Ambuehl

Incentives change how we think is Tyler Cowen's post at MR this morning, on Sandro Ambuehl's job market paper.  (Now is the time to schedule an interview with him at the AEA meetings:)

Read the paper here: An Offer You Can't Refuse? Incentives Change How We Think 

Peter Cramton on Market Design (video)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015

Econ Job market: send two signals by this weekend!

If you are a new Ph.D. economist on the job market, Happy Thanksgiving weekend, and now is the time to send two signals through the AEA. (The deadline is Monday, but if you wait til then you might forget to get your signal in in time: it's 5pm Eastern Standard Time.) The idea is that you can help break through the congestion for interviews at the AEA meetings, by sending signals to two employers who might otherwise think you were unlikely to be interested enough in them for them to devote one of their interview slots to you.

Don't over-think this (it's not that big a deal), but do send two signals to places at which you'd be glad to get an interview but which might not realize that about you.

Here's the link:

The AEA coordinates a mechanism through which applicants can signal their interest in receiving an interview at the January meetings. In mid-November, each registered JOE candidate on the economics job market will have the opportunity to register and designate no more than two departments (or other employers) to whom to send a signal of particular interest. The AEA will transmit these signals to the departments the candidates choose. (Signals will not be made public.) Employers do not need to do anything to register to receive signals; signals will be sent automatically to the email address provided at the time the JOE listing was submitted.
Please see Signaling for Interviews in the Economics Job Market for a detailed description as well as theTerms of Use and Privacy Policy.

2015 Signaling Timeline:

-2015 Signaling Registration & Signal Selection is now open.
-2015 Signaling Registration & Signal Selection will close on Monday, November 30, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. EST.
-2015 Signals will be sent to employers on December 2, 2015.
Please contact aea_signals "at" with any questions or problems.
You must be logged in as a candidate to participate in signaling.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A deportation delayed, to allow for a kidney exchange.

Here's a complicated story:

KIDNEY TRANSPLANT: Brother gets reprieve before deportation to Cambodia

"A life-and-death fight by two Stockton brothers to delay the deportation of one of them for humanitarian reasons appears headed toward a positive outcome for the men, who came to the United States from Cambodia as refugees in 1985.

"A recent ruling by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will allow Touch Hak, 38, to remain in this country for three more years before his deportation for a past drug offense.

"Those three years will allow Hak to participate in a paired kidney-donation program intended to help his brother, 50-year-old Puthy Hak, receive the transplant he needs to remain alive.

“I did my (prison time) for nine years,” Touch Hak said Monday. “I tried to really rehabilitate myself. It’s a lot of weight lifted from our shoulders. All I want to do is give my brother another chance. This will open another door for him.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Speaking about market design in Moscow (2 photos)

Where the red star is not a Christmas ornament...

Here I am at the Financial University

And here's a brief bio, in Russian:
Специалист по практическим приложения экономики
(Goog translate: Specialist in practical applications of the economy)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Alcott and Kessler on behavior and welfare changes from 'nudges"

An NBER working paper:

The Welfare Effects of Nudges: A Case Study of Energy Use Social Comparisons
Hunt Allcott, Judd B. Kessler
NBER Working Paper No. 21671
Issued in October 2015

"Nudge"-style interventions are typically evaluated on the basis of their effects on behavior, not social welfare. We use a field experiment to measure the welfare effects of one especially policy-relevant intervention, home energy conservation reports. We measure consumer welfare by sending introductory reports and using an incentive-compatible multiple price list to determine willingness-to-pay to continue the program. We combine this with estimates of implementation costs and externality reductions to carry out a comprehensive welfare evaluation. We find that this nudge increases social welfare, although traditional program evaluation approaches overstate welfare gains by a factor of five. To exploit significant individual-level heterogeneity in welfare gains, we develop a simple machine learning algorithm to optimally target the nudge; this would more than double the welfare gains. Our results highlight that nudges, even those that are highly effective at changing behavior, need to be evaluated based on their welfare implications.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kidney Exchange: Algorithms and Incentives: video of my lecture at the Simons Institute

Here's a video (about an hour, with Q&A) of the talk I gave at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, at Berkeley, on Monday Nov 16.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Making the market for medical marijuana a little less medical

The NY Times has a story on how easy it is to get a prescription for marijuana in states like California, where medical marijuana is legal but recreational marijuana is  not supposed to be:
Silicon Valley Tries to Alter Your Perception of Cannabis

"One morning in September, I logged on to the website of HelloMD, a medical start-up that promises to connect patients with doctors instantly over the Internet. I filled out my personal details, explained my ailment — I often get heartburn — and entered in my credit card number to cover the $50 consultation fee.

"Within 10 minutes, a pediatrician based near Washington who is licensed to practice medicine in my home state of California popped up on my screen. ...

"The doctor asked about my medical history, current symptoms and familiarity with certain medicines. The interview lasted about three minutes, after which she announced what everyone who visits HelloMD expects to hear: According to her diagnosis, my heartburn made me a candidate for medical marijuana, which has been legal in California since 1996."
Marijuana may eventually be legalized for recreational use in California (as it already is in Colorado, Oregon and the state of Washington). But the market isn't waiting for that:

Prescriptions: HelloMD: "Join and get a Doctor recommendation for medical marijuana. Fully Legal. 100% Online. Secure. Approved in 20 mins."

Find a medical dispensary: Weedmaps

Friday, November 20, 2015

Matchmaking among the Haredi

Ynet has a story: 
Ultra-orthodox matchmaking: everything it's best not to know

"Among the traditional Haredi public – not the modern stream, which has changed in recent years – pairing one's children is the exclusive responsibility of parents. No yeshiva boy is supposed to choose a girl himself. When parents think the time is right, the phase known as "starting to listen" begins – that is, taking suggestions and statements from matchmakers. For the Hasidim it happens around the age of 18, sometimes even younger. For Lithuanians and Sephardim, it's around the age of 20.

"During this stage parents approach matchmakers, tell them about their son or daughter and specify what they are seeking for their child. Finally, much like in the job market, they give the names of their relatives, neighbors and teachers who can provide those interested with "recommendations," or simply additional details.

"When the two sides feel that the stats are good, a meeting between the couple will be arranged. In most Haredi communities the couple will meet a maximum of three times before they become engaged. In the more devout Hasidic communities, the strict rules permit only one meeting, lasting about 20 minutes. The rationale: they will probably develop feelings, and feelings are bad for business.
"Haya, a neighbor of mine, got hitched to a match 38 years ago and is still married. To the same man. Eight out of her 15 children got married in the same way. "We aren't looking for love," she tells me. "We don't marry because I love you or you love me. We have a common goal – to build a home in Israel – and we work together in order to achieve that aim."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Two public lectures today in Vancouver

Two lectures, two different topics (with a little overlap:). If you're in Vancouver...

At UBC: Woodward Lecture Series: Repugnant Transactions
19 November 2015 12:30-2:00 pm
MATH Building, Room 100
"The Vancouver School of Economics is very pleased to host Nobel Laureate Alvin Roth for a free lecture entitled “Repugnant Transactions”.

AT SFU Economics: BMO Public Lecture: 
 Who Gets What and Why: The Economics of Life Choices from School Admissions to Kidney Exchange
1200 Event Room, Segal School of Business (SFU Vancouver)
500 Granville St., Vancouver
Time: 7:00 PM , Thursday, November 19, 2015
"You participate in many more markets than you may realize. From school admissions to kidney exchanges, markets are all around us - even when no money exchanges hands. Alvin Roth, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics, explains the economics of hidden markets and how market design can help fix broken markets, and create new ones. Professor Roth will explore how we can make better decisions by matching our desires in a marketplace."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

To help Paris, donate blood... later (guest post by Carmen Wang)

Carmen Wang writes:

To help Paris, donate blood... later.

Paris needs blood donations in the aftermath of the Attacks, although not that much more than a typical Saturday (EFS press release). Real shortages, however, are very likely in the upcoming winter and holiday season. Market designers point out that blood donations, with kind intention, can happen at wrong times. Instead, would-be donors can register their names and availability with the blood service, and help later when blood is most needed.

Long queues to donate blood everywhere 

EFS (French Blood Service) informing of enough blood supply and asking donors to come back later

Boston in 2013:
Various calls for blood donations after the Boston Marathon Bombing, for example

(Notice the time of this tweet and that of the next tweet)

The American Red Cross politely declining more blood donations

What happened in the two cities are not coincidences.

Similar phenomenon in blood donations has happened during so many disasters like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Victoria Bushfire in Australia. In severe cases, it leads to blood, the gift of life, being left expired on the shelf. However, in 'normal' times most countries suffer recurring blood shortages, especially during winter, due to the holiday season and that many regular donors are affected by cold and flu. Particularly this time in Paris, the winter is coming. The blood collected today will expire in a few weeks right at beginning of the winter months. Moreover, donors who donated today, when there is no real blood shortage, will not be able to donate in winter when shortages do occur. We can only donate blood approximately once every 3 months. Blood is so precious, so donate wisely.

The reason why the above phenomenon repeats itself across the world is because blood donations need to follow the demand for blood, but most people do not have the necessary information. In addition, other people's donations also affects the supply of blood in real time, which makes it impossible for an individual donor to decide whether it is a good time to donate blood. In Paris, we do want to help those who are injured in the Attacks, but not all donors need to respond at the same time. Too many donations can quickly lead to wasteful congestion and oversupply, and worse, potentially affect the blood supply immediately afterwards.

The solution is surprisingly simple, which is to set up a blood donation registry. People who want to help now can sign up in a registry, and commit to donate later when a blood shortage does occur. After all, a need for blood anytime is a need for blood. What difference does it make if it occurs during the Paris Attacks, Boston Marathon Bombing, Australia's Victoria Bushfire versus other 'ordinary' times? The blood service, which knows the need for blood at any given time, can contact donors in the registry to meet any excess demand for blood, and maintain an adequate level of blood supply in the long term. With the help of the registry, registered donors can be informed correctly not only when there is a potential shortage in aggregate, but more importantly, when their donations are needed and when others have donated enough. 
So to people in Paris, how about a registry in memory of Paris Attacks? The registry not only helps smooth out supply in disaster times, but also helps donors to stay informed, and donate whenever there is a need in normal times. And to donors anywhere in the world, the need for blood in your local area might be more than that in Paris as today. If you would've helped were you in Paris, maybe someone needs your help right now right around you.

More details, see paperSlonim, Robert, Carmen Wang, and Ellen Garbarino (2014). The Market for BloodThe Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28(2), 177-196.
And two upcoming working papers (inquire authors for more information)Slonim, Robert and Carmen Wang (2015), Market design for altruistic supply: Evidence from the Lab

Garbarino, Ellen, Stephanie Heger, Robert Slonim and Carmen Wang, Redesigning markets for blood donations: A blood donation registry

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Herb Scarf, RIP

Rakesh Vohra memorializes Herb Scarf (1930-2015) with a quote from Horace, and passes along the sad news that Scarf passed away two days ago, on November 15.

Scarf was, as Vohra says, a colossus at the intersection of economics and operations research.

In my small corner of the world, a very important paper was Shapley and Scarf (1974), "On Cores and Indivisibility," published in volume 1 number 1 of the Journal of Mathematical Economics. It built on Scarf's work on the core of games without sidepayments, and introduced a way of thinking about barter for indivisible goods, via the top trading cycle algorithm (which Shapley and Scarf attributed to David Gale).

Update: see obituraries,

Monday, November 16, 2015

Algorithmic Game Theory and Practice Nov. 16 – Nov. 20, 2015 at the Simons Institute

At Berkeley's Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing
  • Click on the titles of individual talks for abstract, slides and archived video (available approximately one week after the conclusion of the workshop).
  • Talks will also be streamed live on this page during the workshop.
Please note that this schedule is subject to change. All events take place in the Calvin Lab Auditorium.
Monday, November 16th, 2015
9:00 am – 9:20 am
Coffee & Check-In
9:20 am – 9:30 am
Opening Remarks
9:30 am – 10:10 am
10:10 am – 10:40 am
10:40 am – 11:20 am
11:20 am – 12:00 pm
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
1:30 pm – 2:10 pm
2:10 pm – 2:50 pm
2:50 pm – 3:20 pm
3:20 pm – 4:00 pm
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
9:00 am – 9:30 am
Coffee & Check-In
9:30 am – 10:10 am
10:10 am – 10:40 am
10:40 am – 11:20 am
11:20 am – 12:00 pm
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
1:30 pm – 2:10 pm
2:10 pm – 2:40 pm
2:40 pm – 4:00 pm
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
9:00 am – 9:30 am
Coffee & Check-In
9:30 am – 10:10 am
10:10 am – 10:40 am
10:40 am – 11:20 am
11:20 am – 12:00 pm
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
1:30 pm – 2:10 pm
2:10 pm – 2:50 pm
2:50 pm – 3:20 pm
3:20 pm – 4:00 pm
Thursday, November 19th, 2015
9:00 am – 9:30 am
Coffee & Check-In
9:30 am – 10:10 am
10:10 am – 10:40 am
10:40 am – 11:20 am
11:20 am – 12:00 pm
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
1:30 pm – 2:10 pm
2:10 pm – 2:50 pm
2:50 pm – 3:20 pm
3:20 pm – 4:00 pm
Friday, November 20th, 2015
9:00 am – 9:30 am
Coffee & Check-In
9:30 am – 10:10 am
10:10 am – 10:40 am
10:40 am – 11:20 am
11:20 am – 12:00 pm

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The legal marijuana market in Colorado

Colorado Amendment 64, legalizing recreational marijuana use, was passed in 2012 and went into full effect in January 2014. Legal sales are becoming big business, presumably not just at the expense of previously illegal sales in former black markets.

This brings in tax revenues too: Colorado pot taxes: Over the first six months of 2015, the state has pulled in a total of $60.7 million in marijuana taxes, fees

Here are the regulations regarding retail marijuana use in the city of Denver.

I haven't read reports of increases in traffic accidents or crime, although the New Republic has a story saying that all the additional marijuana is driving up real estate prices, as tourists and growers compete for residential and commercial real estate: The Housing Crisis Amid Denver’s Cannabis Boom

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Refugee resettlement, on Bloomberg Surveillance

Early yesterday morning, I was interviewd for 5 minutes about refugee resettlement on
Bloomberg Surveillance: Yergin, Alloway and Roth
Nov 13, 2015
Bloomberg Surveillance with Tom Keene and Michael McKee. GUESTS: Dan Yergin Vice Chairman IHS Inc joins Surveillance to discuss oil and commodities Tracy Alloway Executive Editor:Media Markets Bloomberg Editorial on What’s Moving Markets Alvin Roth Professor:Economics Stanford University Roth on matching markets and refugee resettlement.

or here:

My five minutes are from minute 34:15 to 39:30.

All this happened hours before the terrorist attacks in Paris, which I fear will have a very chilling effect on refugee resettlment in Europe.