Saturday, August 29, 2015

Economics is useful, diverse and fun: new video from the American Economics Association

Do you advise students on careers? The AEA has produced a video for prospective economists. The video is here and here. Below is the description:
August 28, 2015

The American Economics Association has launched an informational video entitled "A career in Economics . . . it's much more than you think." The 9-minute film is aimed at prospective or first-year students who may be investigating economics as a career option but are unclear how broadly a degree in economics can be applied.

The film makes effort to dispel entrenched misconceptions about who economists are and what they do. Economics can be broadly defined as the study of human behaviors aimed at finding solutions to help improve peoples' lives. Viewers are reminded that a degree in economics doesn't have to be about finance, banking, business, or government, . . . it can be useful to all individuals and can lead to many interesting and fulfilling career choices.

The video features four individuals offering insights on how economics can be a tool for solving very human problems and they provide some interesting perspectives on how they chose economics as a career path. The film also helps raise awareness about the need for more diverse voices in the field of economics.
  • Marcella Alsan, a physician of infectious disease, discusses why she needed to pursue a degree in economics to improve the lives of her patients.
  • Randall Lewis, a research scientist at Google, uses economics and "big data" as tools to improve the functioning of markets.
  • Britni Wilcher, a PhD student of economics, offers insight on some misconceptions about economists and factors influencing her career path decision.
  • Peter Henry, dean at the NYU Stern School of Business, points to the true nature of economics and the importance of diverse voices informing the field.

All economics departments and placement offices are invited to share this video with their students. Available free at the AEA website and on Vimeo

Friday, August 28, 2015

Law and market design at Duke

It looks like Kim Krawiec et al. are up to something interesting at Duke.

Duke Law Project on Law and Markets focuses on strengths and limits of markets

August 10, 2015Duke Law News
Duke Law faculty and students are undertaking a yearlong study of topics at the intersection of law and markets to investigate foundational questions about how law can address market inequalities, how market forces might be effective in areas where laws are ineffective, and the philosophical underpinnings of market-driven and regulatory approaches to various issues.
The Duke Law Project on Law and Markets, led by Professors Kimberly Krawiec and Joseph Blocher, includes faculty workshops, a colloquium for faculty and seminar students, a speaker series, and a symposium that will result in a volume of relevant scholarship in the journal Law and Contemporary Problems.
“Our goal is to bring the community together around a broad topic and to really think hard about it,” said Krawiec, the Kathrine Robinson Everett Professor of Law. “Joseph and I were excited about law and markets because of work that the two of us had been doing separately about the role of markets as they relate to law.”
Krawiec, a scholar of corporate law, securities, and derivatives, also studies non-traditional and taboo markets, such as those for babies — via sperm and egg donation, surrogacy, and adoption — and for transplant-ready human organs. In some of his recent works Blocher, a scholar of constitutional and property law, has contemplated interstate and sovereign border markets as a possible solution to a range of economic and political problems.
About 30 faculty members took part in the project’s first event on June 1, a discussion of a controversial 1970 article on blood donation, which argued that a system based on altruism is superior to a market-based system regulated by self-interest. “We had a very lively, two-hour discussion,” said Blocher. “It was a great kick-off.”
Other summer workshops have included a discussion of markets and environmental regulation led byJonathan Wiener, the William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professor of Law and Professor of Environmental Policy and Professor of Public Policy, and one on the relationship between economic development and other freedoms led by Barak Richman, the Edgar P. and Elizabeth C. Bartlett Professor of Law and Professor of Business Administration.
The wide range of topics is, in many ways, the point of the overall inquiry, Krawiec said.
“It’s related to a broader notion of market design, which is popular with economists,” she said. “Lawyers have a role to play, because many of the objections to having markets operate in certain areas are things that can be dealt with by law.” The law, for example, can address inequalities by providing subsidies, she said.
“Markets involve more than money changing hands. A market is a mechanism for allocating scarce resources, and the law has a lot to say about how that should operate, given the various public policy goals we have.” That’s true, she said, of organ donation, “which is not a literal market, because it’s illegal to trade in organs.”
The Project on Law and Markets was inspired by the Duke Project on Custom and Law that occurred over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year and resulted in a symposium issue of the Duke Law Journalwith articles on such topics as customs in the art market, norms in kidney exchange programs, and how the Internal Revenue Service draws on custom to under-enforce portions of the tax code. The initiative sparked a number of scholarly collaborations and Blocher and Krawiec hope that success will be replicated in the current project.
“We’re hoping to connect people who might not otherwise be connected in dealing with problems of law, problems of scarcity, problems of inequality,” said Blocher. “Obviously the work that Jennifer Jenkins andJames Boyle do regarding the public domain and what goes into and what stays out of the market is hugely important and interesting, but other scholars might not connect it to their work. It might just be seen as a sort of walled-off, intellectual property issue.” Boyle, the William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law, is a leading scholar of intellectual property and the founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, which Jenkins ’97 directs. 
The two-credit Law and Markets Colloquium will engage students in discussion of assigned readings and workshop presentations on law and markets. Along with the faculty workshops and symposium, it is likely to expose a range of assumptions and differences of opinion about the role of law and the role of markets, said Blocher. “People are going to have very different, maybe irreducible, normative visions about what’s good and proper for the use of money or other market incentives. But like any question of law, markets, or justice, we don’t anticipate a single answer.”
“It’s more about unearthing the questions we should be thinking about,” said Krawiec.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Assisted dying: the debate in England

The Telegraph has the latest:
‘There is nothing sacred about suffering’, insist faith leaders in assisted dying call--Bishops, priests and leading Rabbis break ranks with mainstream religious case opposition to assisted dying

"Religious teachings that elevate suffering and pain as something “sacred” should not be used to prevent terminally ill people taking their own lives, leading Christian and Jewish clerics have insisted.

"An alliance of bishops, priests and rabbis have broken ranks with the religious establishment to voice support for plans to change the law to allow a form of assisted suicide in the UK for the first time.

"In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, they argue that far from being a sin, helping terminally ill people to commit suicide should be viewed simply as enabling them to “gracefully hand back” their lives to God.

"There is, they insist “nothing sacred” about suffering in itself and no one should be “obliged to endure it”, they insist.

"Signatories of the letter, in support of a bill to be debated by MPs next month, include Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who stunned the Church of England last year when he announced that he had changed his mind on the issue.
"MPs are due to debate an Assisted Dying Bill tabled by the Labour backbencher Rob Marris next month.

"It would allow people thought to have no more than six months to live and a “settled intention” to end their life to be allowed be given a lethal dose of drugs on the authority of two doctors.

While most of the major religious groups in the UK have voiced opposition, some polls suggest a majority of people who identify themselves with a faith are in favour of relaxing the law."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Some histories of organ transplantation

I can't vouch for any of these...most are un-refereed internet pages...some starting with events reported from quite long ago, regarding skin and bones, for example.

From Timeline of Historical Events Significant Milestones in Organ Donation and Transplantation

Here's a journal article, whose history begins with kidneys...
Organ transplantation: historical perspective and current practice
C. J. E. Watson1,* and J. H. Dark, 
Br. J. Anaesth. (2012) 108 (suppl 1): i29-i42.
doi: 10.1093/bja/aer384 
"A brief history of transplantation
Kidney transplantation
Since Jaboulay and Carrel developed the techniques
required to perform vascular anastomoses at the turn of
the last century, there has been a desire to treat organ
failure by transplantation. Jaboulay was the first to
attempt this in 1906, treating two patients with renal
failure by transplanting a goat kidney into one and a pig
kidney into the other; in both cases, he joined the renal
vessels to the brachial vessels.1 Both transplants failed
and both patients died. At that time, there was no alternative
to death if renal failure developed, and it would be
another 38 yr before the first haemodialysis machine was
invented. The first use of a human kidney for transplantation
followed in 1936 when Yu Yu Voronoy, a Ukrainian
surgeon working in Kiev, performed the first in a series of
six transplants to treat patients dying from acute renal
failure secondary to mercury poisoning, ingested by its
victims in an attempt to commit suicide. All the transplants
failed, in large part because of a failure to appreciate the
deleterious effect of warm ischaemia; the first kidney was
retrieved 6 h after the donor died.
One limitation to transplantation then, as now, was the
lack of suitable donor organs. The initial pioneers had used
animal organs or organs from long deceased humans. In
the 1950s, there came a realization of the need to avoid
excessive ischaemic injury and kidneys from live donors
began to be used. Some of these were from the relatives of
the recipient; others were unrelated patients having a good
kidney removed for other reasons. The surgical technique
also needed refinement; while a kidney based on the thigh
or arm vessels might be technically straightforward, and possibly
adequate for the short-term treatment of acute renal
failure, it was not a realistic solution for the long term.
That solution came from France in 1951 and involved
placing the kidney extraperitoneally in an iliac fossa, where
the external iliac vessels are easy to access and the
bladder is close by for anastomosis to the donor ureter;
this is the technique still used today.
Having overcome the technical issues of vascular anastomosis
and placement of the kidney, there remained the
problem of the immune response. Medawar’s work during
and after the Second World War studying the rejection of
skin grafts had demonstrated the potency of the immune
system.2 At that time, attempts to control the immune
system using irradiation had proved either ineffectual or
lethal. The first successful transplant therefore came about
by avoiding an immune response altogether, which Joseph
Murray’s team achieved by performing a kidney transplant
between identical twins.3 There then followed a series of
identical twin transplants around the world, with the first in
the UK being performed in Edinburgh by Woodruff and
colleagues4 in 1960."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Do participants try to strategize in strategy-proof mechanisms? Alex Rees-Jones surveys medical students about the NRMP.

One of the papers I heard at the recent SITE conference at Stanford was this one, reporting a survey of medical students engaged in the NRMP.

Suboptimal Behavior in Strategy-Proof Mechanisms:Evidence from the Residency Match 
Alex Rees-Jones
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
August 10, 2015

Abstract: Strategy-proof mechanisms eliminate the possibility for gain from strategic misrepresentation of preferences. If market participants respond optimally, these mechanisms permit the observation of true preferences and avoid the implicit punishment of market participants who do not try to “game the system.” Using new data from a flagship application of the matching literature—the medical residency match—I study if these potential benefits are fully realized. I present evidence that some students pursue futile attempts at strategic misrepresentation, and examine the causes and correlates of this behavior. These results inform the assessment of the costs and benefits of strategy-proof mechanisms, and demonstrate broad challenges in mechanism design.

From a survey of graduating medical students: "I find that 17% of students self-assess their preference reporting strategy to be nontruthful, with 5% directly attributing this nontruthful behavior to strategic considerations."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Many dialysis patients are not referred to transplant centers in their first years on dialysis (incentives matter...)

Too Few Kidney Dialysis Patients Referred for Organ Transplant, Study Finds
Only about one in four in Georgia get further evaluation

"Although a kidney transplant is considered the best hope for people struggling with end-stage renal disease, a new study conducted in Georgia found three-quarters of these patients weren't even evaluated for a possible transplant within their first year of dialysis.

That finding flies in the face of U.S. regulations that require all dialysis centers to fully inform these patients about all available treatment options. Those options include kidney transplantation, a typically less expensive intervention than ongoing dialysis and one that also promises greater longevity and a better quality of life, the researchers noted.

What's more, the team found a huge variation in statewide referral rates. Some dialysis centers failed to send even a single first-year patient for a transplant consultation, while others referred 75 percent of their new patients."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is unified enrollment school choice coming to Indianapolis?

"Caitlin Hannon gave up her job and her Indianapolis Public School Board seat for an idea that, while a pretty good bet to give her a future role in education in the city, is far from a slam dunk to succeed.
She’s taken the leap from suggesting as unified enrollment system as a board member to starting one herself. Her goal goes beyond just matching families with the best schools for their children."

Here's the rest of the story, by Scott Elliott at Chalkbeat...

Hannon’s goal: Help parents make choices and give schools useful data
Caitlin Hannon touts a common application system's benefits for families, charter schools and IPS

"Hannon said her goal is to create a single application parents could use to request schools for the 2017-18 school year. Her plan is to have it ready in late 2016 before the district normally begins gearing up its magnet school lottery.
Her vision is a system parents can use to learn about schools, rank them by preference and request children be assigned to their favorites.
A unified enrollment system is not a unique idea. New Orleans is a well known example among a handful of cities that have tried it."