Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Market Design and Operations Research: an interview by the journal Mathematics of Operations Research

The journal Mathematics of Operations Research, where the main paper from my dissertation was published in 1976, has published an interview with me in their Author Spotlight section: In Conversation with...ALVIN E. ROTH.

Here's the first question and answer:

INFORMS:  Your first published paper, “Subsolutions and the Supercore of Cooperative Games,” [2]based on your doctoral thesis, appeared in MOR in 1976. The paper was handled by Nobel winner and MOR Founding Area Editor Robert Aumann. Can you share with us how your first experience with the peer review process went?

ROTH:  I recall that experience vividly. Aumann, in his editor’s letter, told me to ignore the referees, but to revise the paper along the lines he would describe. One revision he wanted had to do with the proof of my main theorem, for which I had used Zorn’s Lemma. He advised me to try to construct a proof which instead used transfinite induction. I didn’t know what transfinite induction was, so I was very skeptical, but I grimly trudged to the math library and got a copy of Hausdorff’s book Set Theory [3] to repair this gap in my education. I still remember how my hopes lifted when I opened the book and saw that it had been translated from the German by…Aumann. It turned out that he knew what he was talking about, and the proof that appears in my published MOR paper uses transfinite induction.

At the Author Spotlight page they also link to the several papers I published in MOR:

  • Roth AE (1976) Subsolutions and the Supercore of Cooperative Games. Math. Oper. Res. 1(1):43–49.  
  • Roth AE (1977) Individual rationality and Nash’s solution to the bargaining problem. Math. Oper. Res. 2(1): 64–65. 
  • Roth AE (1982) The economics of matching: Stability and incentives. Math. Oper. Res. 7(4):617–628. 
  • Roth AE (1985) Conflict and coincidence of interest in job matching: Some new results and open questions. Math. Oper. Res. 10(3):379–389.*  
  • Roth AE, Rothblum UG, Vande Vate, JH (1993) Stable matchings, optimal assignments, and linear programming. Math. Oper. Res. 18(4): 803–828. 

  • Since becoming a notorious economist, I've had a number of conversations with operations researchers that begin with a question like "Why did you switch from OR to Economics?"

    My usual answer is that I got my Ph.D. in OR in 1974 with a dissertation in game theory, and it looked at that time as if OR would be a natural place for game theory to flourish, particularly since Bob Aumann was the founding game theory editor of MOR. But, as it turned out, game theory grew first and fastest in Economics. So I just stood my ground, while the disciplinary boundaries shifted around me. Today, market design has become the engineering part of game theory, and it's time for OR and Economics to reconnect around market design. And indeed at Stanford, many of the Ph.D. students in our market design classes in the econ department are OR students from our MS&E department or from our Business school, both of which in turn have market designers on their faculty.  So I'm optimistic that my dual identities as an economist and operations researcher may soon seem seamless.

    *Beware, my 1985 paper contains an error about the lattice structure of stable matchings, that was noted and corrected by
    Charles Blair (1988), "The Lattice Structure of the Set of Stable Matchings with Multiple Partners,"  Mathematics of Operations Research 13(4):619-628. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/moor.13.4.619
    and also by
    Jianrong Li, (2013) A Note on Roth's Consensus Property of Many-to-One Matching. Mathematics of Operations Research 38(2):389-392. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/moor.1120.0576 

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Invitation to celebrate Bob Wilson in Chicago: CME Group-MSRI Prize

    Here's an invitation to a Wilson celebration in Chicago early next month...

    Join us for the 11th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovation Quantitative Applications honoring Stanford University Professor Robert Wilson

    CME Group Center for Innovation and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) cordially invite you to the 11th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications seminar and award reception honoring:

    Adams Distinguished Professor of Management, Emeritus
    Stanford Graduate School of Business

    February 2, 2017
    9:00 AM: Seminar
    12:00 PM: Luncheon & Award Presentation 

    CME Group Headquarters
    20 South Wacker Dr. 
    Chicago, IL 60606

    Seminar: Frontiers of Game-Theoretic Applications in Economics
    Featured Speakers:


    Drew Fudenberg
    Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


    Srihari Govindan
    Professor, Department of Economics, University of Rochester


    Bengt Holmström
    Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    2016 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences Recipient
    2013 Recipient of the CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications


    Paul Milgrom
    Shirley R. and Leonard W. Ely Jr. Professor of Humanities and Sciences, Economics Department, Stanford University


    Roger Myerson
    Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago
    2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Recipient


    Philip Reny
    The Hugo F. Sonnenschein Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College, University of Chicago


    Alvin Roth
    Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Stanford University
    2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Recipient

    Sunday, January 15, 2017

    Egypt arrests 'organ trafficking ring'

    The BBC has the story: Egypt arrests 'organ trafficking ring'
    Egyptian authorities have arrested doctors, nurses and professors suspected of being involved in an international organ trafficking ring.


    "The arrests of at least 25 people on Tuesday also included organ buyers and middlemen, the country's Administrative Control Authority said.
    Authorities also found "millions of dollars and gold bullion".
    It is illegal to purchase organs in Egypt, but poverty drives some to sell their body parts.
    The Administrative Control Authority, a powerful anti-corruption body, claimed the network targeted on Tuesday was "made up of Egyptians and Arabs taking advantage of some of the citizens' difficult economic conditions so that they buy their human organs and sell [them] for large sums of money".
    The statement on the government website added that the group was "the largest international network for trading human organs".
    "The arrests follow years of concern over the illegal organ trade in Egypt.
    In 2010, it was named as one of the top five countries for illegal organ trade by the World Health Organization's co-ordinator at the time, Luc Noel.
    Egypt passed laws to try to curb the trade, but according to the United Nations, hundreds of poor Egyptians still sell kidneys and livers each year to be able to buy food or pay off debts.
    There have also been concerns over the fate of migrants who come into contact with the traffickers.
    In 2012, then UN refugee agency chief, Antonio Guterres, said some migrants in Egypt's Sinai peninsula were being "killed for the traffic of organs", while earlier this year a people smuggler told Italian prosecutors that those who could not pay their debt were sold to the organ traffickers.
    The allegations have not been proven, however."

    Here is a related story from the Daily Mail:
    45 doctors, nurses and 'middlemen' are arrested for HUMAN ORGAN trade in Egypt as migrants sell body parts to reach Europe 
    The harvesting of human organs is being described as the biggest ever in Egypt
    Reports those involved were targeting African migrants trying to get to Europe
    As well as the arrests, health ministry recovered millions of dollars in a raid
    Some arrested worked at medical faculties of Cairo and Ain Shams Universities

    Black markets for kidney transplants--arrests in Israel

    A late December story of black markets and law enforcement from the Times of Israel:
    2 charged with running international organ traffic ring. Patients allegedly paid $180,000 for a kidney; illegal transplants carried out in Turkey, Bulgaria, Thailand, Philippines

    "Roini Shimshilashvili and Albert Murdakhayev were charged with multiple counts of trafficking in organs, brokering organ trafficking and conspiracy, according to a court statement. A third man, identified as a doctor, Zachi Shapira, was charged with multiple counts of assisting in organ trafficking.
    "The two men allegedly found prospective donors from the former Soviet Union who matched sick Israelis. The donors would be paid to donate their kidneys to the Israelis, “who paid sums of up to $180,000 in most cases,” the court heard. It was not clear how much the donors were paid.


    "In the last two years, the ring reportedly arranged for 14 transplants in four countries; Turkey, Bulgaria, Thailand and Philippines"

    HT: Robert Gutman

    Saturday, January 14, 2017

    2016 Baby Markets 10th Anniversary International Congress in April

    Here's the call for papers:

    2016 Baby Markets 10th Anniversary International Congress

    April 1-3, 2016 • University of California, Irvine School of Law
    The Baby Markets International Congress celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Baby Markets Roundtable series founded by the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy's Director, Chancellor’s Professor Michele Goodwin.

    The Center welcomes abstracts engaging adoption, assisted reproduction, surrogacy trafficking, custodial parenting, care-giving, foster care, legal implications, and more through historical and contemporary lenses. View the full list of Congress themes »
    Congress attendees will have the opportunity to submit papers to the Organizing Committee for publication in UC Irvine Law Review. The Organizing Committee will choose a select number of proceedings from the Congress for publication. Papers may also be accepted for the Second Edition of Professor Michele Goodwin’s Baby Markets volume.
    All abstracts must be submitted by January 31, 2016. Abstracts should not exceed 250 words.

    Friday, January 13, 2017

    Genetic testing for heritable diseases

    JScreen is a genetic testing service associated with Emory University that allows individuals and couples to learn what heritable diseases they may carry.  It also offers advising on Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), Use of donor sperm or egg, Adoption, Prenatal Diagnosis, and Preparation and Early Treatment (when expecting a child who may have a congenital disease).

    A well established service of this kind, with a focus on Tay Sachs disease, is Dor Yeshorim (which translates roughly as "straight generation") about which I blogged last year with particular attention to the privacy protecting part of their protocol:

    A privacy-preserving market design intervention to avoid Tay Sachs disease

    Thursday, January 12, 2017

    Evolution of kidney exchange markets, and other short videos from the AEA Poster session

    Below is the video interview that goes with my poster presentation at the just concluded American Economic Association/ASSA meetings in Chicago:


    Al Roth on the evolution of kidney exchange markets

    Subtitle: Al Roth is the current president of the American Economic Association and the Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University. He sat down with the AEA to talk about the market for a product (human kidneys) that can't legally be bought or sold, and the potential for huge savings in the U.S. health care system if we do a better job facilitating kidney exchanges across international borders.

    You can also find the video here, on vimeo.

    Al Roth on the evolution of kidney exchange markets from American Economic Association on Vimeo.

    You can videos related to other posters at the 2017 Annual Meeting Videos , and here you can see the whole poster session.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017

    Backpage closes it's marketplace for sex

    Yesterday I posted about the legal battle brewing over whether Backpage.com is in violation of the laws against pimping and prostitution, and today comes the news that it is shutting down those ads. Here's the Washington Post story:
    Backpage.com shuts down adult services ads after relentless pressure from authorities
    "Fighting accusations from members of Congress that it facilitated child sex trafficking, the classified advertising site Backpage.com abruptly closed its adult advertising section in the United States on Monday, saying years of government pressure left it no choice but to shutter its most popular and lucrative feature.

    "The decision came shortly after a Senate panel released a report alleging Backpage concealed criminal activity by removing words from ads that would have exposed child sex trafficking and prostitution. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is scheduled to hold a hearing on the report Tuesday morning. Backpage’s founders and executives will appear in the hearing but do not plan to testify, according to their attorneys.
    "The federal Communications Decency Act provides immunity to website operators that publish third-party content online, but multiple lawsuits have argued that the 1996 law does not protect Backpage because the site contributes to illegal activity — claims Backpage has vigorously denied.

    "The Senate subcommittee raised similar concerns Monday. Its report alleged that Backpage knowingly hid child sex trafficking and prostitution by deleting incriminating terms from its ads before publication. The report found that the company used a feature that automatically scrubbed words such as “teenage,” “rape” and “young” from some ads, while manually removing terms from others."

    European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes

    The European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes will have its first meeting in January in Estonia, January 12 and 13 at the Estonian Business School (EBS). The aim of the network is to share information and coordinate practices among planned and existing kidney exchange programs throughout Europe.

    DAY 1

    8:30-9:00 registrations
    9:00-9:45 Introduction by Joris vd Klundert:
    -    Welcome Introduction of the participants
    -    Aim and structure of the project
    9.45-10.00 Aim of the first meeting by Peter Biro
    Session 1 (moderated by Lisa Burnapp/ Bernadette Haase)
    10.00-10.20  Aline Hemke: updates on the Dutch KEP
    10.20 -10.40 Rachel Johnson: updates on the UK KEP
    10.40-11.00  Discussion and key points
    11.00:-11:30 coffee break
    Session 2 (moderated Lisa Burnapp/Bernadette Haase)
    11:30-11:50 Maria Valentin: KEP in Spain
    11:50-12:10 Catarina Bolotinha: KEP in Portugal
    12:10-12:30 Marie-Alice Macher: KEP in France
    12:30-12:50  Paola Di Ciaccio and Vito Sparacino: KEP in Italy
    12.50-13.30  Discussion and key points
    13:30-14:30 lunch break
    Session 3 (moderated Peter Biro)
    14:30-14:50 Jiri Fronek: KEP in Czech Republic
    14:50-15:10 Gregor Bond: KEP in Austria
    15:10-15:30 Rafal Kieszek: KEP in Poland
    15:30-15:45 Katarina Cechlarova: plans in Slovakia
    15:45-16:00 Karine Hadaya: plans in Switzerland
    16.00 – 16.30 coffee break
    Session 4  (moderated by Lisa Burnapp/Bernadette Haase)
    16:30-18:00 Interactive discussion on key themes from the morning session

    Day 2

    Session 5 (moderated by Joris vd Klundert)
    9:00-9.15   Discussing the issues identified at the meeting in relation with the COST Action plans
    9.15-10.30  Identify the specialised areas (organisational, legal ,financial, mathematical etc) which need further investigations and concrete actions. Division of work among participants.
    10.30-11:00 coffee break
    Session 6 (open discussion, moderated by Peter Biro)
    11:00-11:45 Handbook: structure, details of data collection
    11:45-12:30 Organisation of further activities of WG1

    Racial discrimination in Uber and Lyft

    Here's an NBER paper that investigates, in connection with Uber and Lyft, some of the issues that crop up in other distributed decision making marketplaces:

    Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies 
    Yanbo Ge, Christopher R. Knittel, Don MacKenzie, and Stephen Zoepf
    NBER Working Paper No. 22776 October 2016

    ABSTRACT Passengers have faced a history of discrimination in transportation systems. Peer transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft present the opportunity to rectify long-standing discrimination or worsen it. We sent passengers in Seattle, WA and Boston, MA to hail nearly 1,500 rides on controlled routes and recorded key performance metrics. Results indicated a pattern of discrimination, which we observed in Seattle through longer waiting times for African American passengers—as much as a 35 percent increase. In Boston, we observed discrimination by Uber drivers via more frequent cancellations against passengers when they used African Americansounding names. Across all trips, the cancellation rate for African American sounding names was more than twice as frequent compared to white sounding names. Male passengers requesting a ride in low-density areas were more than three times as likely to have their trip canceled when they used a African American-sounding name than when they used a white-sounding name. We also find evidence that drivers took female passengers for longer, more expensive, rides in Boston. We observe that removing names from trip booking may alleviate the immediate problem but could introduce other pathways for unequal treatment of passengers.

    Yanbo Ge University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering yanboge@uw.edu
    Christopher R. Knittel MIT Sloan School of Management 100 Main Street, E62-513 Cambridge, MA 02142 and NBER knittel@mit.edu
    Don MacKenzie University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering dwhm@uw.edu
    Stephen Zoepf Stanford University Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) szoepf@stanford.edu

    See these posts for a related problem of peer to peer discrimination faced by Airbnb:

    Airbnb consider market design changes to reduce discrimination