Saturday, February 24, 2018

Debt traps and money lending

Credit for poor borrowers is a subject of importance in both the developing and developed world. Here's a new paper...

Debt Traps? Market Vendors and Moneylender Debt in India and the Philippines

Dean KarlanSendhil MullainathanBenjamin N. Roth

NBER Working Paper No. 24272
Issued in February 2018
NBER Program(s):Development EconomicsLaw and EconomicsProductivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship 
A debt trap occurs when someone takes on a high-interest rate loan and is barely able to pay back the interest, and thus perpetually finds themselves in debt (often by re-financing). Studying such practices is important for understanding financial decision-making of households in dire circumstances, and also for setting appropriate consumer protection policies. We conduct a simple experiment in three sites in which we paid off high-interest moneylender debt of individuals. Most borrowers returned to debt within six weeks. One to two years after intervention, treatment individuals were borrowing at the same rate as control households.

Friday, February 23, 2018

SITE experimental economics conference, August 2018, call for papers

Call for Papers
SITE Experimental Economics Conference
August 6 - 7, 2018
  
The Stanford Institute for Theoretical Economics: Workshop in Experimental Economics will be hosted this year on August 6th and 7th at Stanford University.  

The workshop seeks to showcase recent contributions in experimental economics. We hope you will consider submitting your work, and encourage others with interesting work to do so as well.

The deadline for submission is April 1, 2018.  To submit a paper, please follow the instructions at the following link:  https://site.stanford.edu/call-papers.  The submission platform this year requires you to create an account. While this platform is outside of our control, if you have any difficulty with the online submission, please feel free to email your paper directly to Christine (clexley@hbs.edu) or to the SITE program coordinator, Dorian (siteworkshop@stanford.edu).


SITE Experimental Economics Organizers

Luke Coffman, Harvard University
Christine Exley, Harvard Business School
Muriel Niederle, Stanford University
Al Roth, Stanford University 
Lise Vesterlund, University of Pittsburgh

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kidney exchange in India

Right now, kidney exchange in India is all done in single transplant center programs. Here's an article advocating inter-hospital exchange to increase accesss to transplantation.

Kidney-paired donation to increase living donor kidney transplantation in India: Guidelines of Indian Society of Organ Transplantation – 2017
Kute VB, Agarwal SK, Sahay M, Kumar A, Rathi M, Prasad N, Sharma RK, Gupta KL, Shroff S, Saxena SK, Shah PR, Modi PR, Billa V, Tripathi LK, Raju S, Bhadauria DS, Jeloka TK, Agarwal D, Krishna A, Perumalla R, Jain M, Guleria S, Rees MA
Indian Journal of Nephrology, 2018  |  Volume : 28  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-9

"Conclusion: KPD transplant is legal, cost-effective, rapidly expanding modality with good long-term outcome, and being implemented in several centers in India with the potential to increase LDKT by 25%. KPD transplant should be encouraged over ABOiKT and desensitization protocol. The quality of matching and number of KPD will be superior in national program versus single-center program due to large donor pool. Transplant team members, stakeholder, and policy-makers should work together to expand KPD.

...
These are recommendation on KPD transplantation after the Indian Society of Organ Transplantation (ISOT) midterm meeting organized at Chennai on March 18, 2017, and 1-day Workshop organized at Hotel Pullman, Aerocity, New Delhi, on April 29, 2017, under the Aegis of ISOT and participation of NOTT organization to discuss various issues related to expanding KPD and starting the National KPD program. Transplant surgeons, physicians, and other stakeholders from major centers across the country participated and had a robust discussion on the related issues."

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Organ donation in Germany

Organ donation in Germany is declining, from an already low rate.
 Die WirtschaftsWoche has the story in their February 19 issue:

Die Zahl der Organspenden in Deutschland geht immer stärker zurück. Ökonomen machen dafür auch falsche Anreize verantwortlich. Sie schlagen Modelle vor, um mehr Menschen fürs Spenden zu gewinnen.

Google translate: "This could lead to incentives for organ donation
The number of organ donations in Germany is decreasing more and more. Economists blame it for wrong incentives. They suggest models to get more people to donate."

The article refers in part to this lab experiment investigating giving registered organ donors priority should they need an organ:

Organ donation in the lab: Preferences and votes on the priority rule
by Annika Herr and Hans-Theo Normann
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization
Volume 131, Part B, November 2016, Pages 139-149

"Abstract: An allocation rule that prioritizes registered donors increases the willingness to register for organ donation, as laboratory experiments show. In public opinion, however, this priority rule faces repugnance. We explore the discrepancy by implementing a vote on the rule in a donation experiment, and we also elicit opinion poll-like views. We find that two-thirds of the participants voted for the priority rule in the experiment. When asked about real-world implementation, participants of the donation experiment were more likely to support the rule than non-participants. We further confirm previous research in that the priority rule increases donation rates. Beyond that, we find medical school students donate more often than participants from other fields."

The newspaper article also quotes German transplant officials as saying that this would be an unethical organ market, and that it would open the door to illegal black markets...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tim Bresnahan, Ariel Pakes and Rob Porter win BBVA Award, for their pioneering work in industrial organization, and Bill Nordhaus wins for his work in climate change

Breaking news:
The BBVA Foundation recognizes Bresnahan, Pakes and Porter for opening up the field of empirical industrial organization

"The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Economics, Finance and Management category goes, in this tenth edition, to Timothy Bresnahan, Ariel Pakes and Robert Porter for founding and shaping the field of empirical industrial organization, a branch of economics that has developed fundamental techniques to measure market power (understood as the ability of a firm to control prices in a given industry). “Motivated by important and policy-relevant questions in applied economics,” remarks the jury in its citation, “they developed methodologies that had a significant and long-lasting impact on subsequent work in industrial organization as well as other applied fields.”
*********

William Nordhaus, the father of climate change economics, wins the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award

"The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Climate Change category goes, in this tenth edition, to economist William Nordhaus, of Yale University (USA) for founding the field of climate change economics, by “pioneering a framework that integrates climate science, technology and economics to address the critical question: What should the world do to limit climate change?”:

Israel celebrates Sergiu Hart

The Israel Prize goes to Sergiu Hart! Here's a picture of him I once took in Jerusalem:
Sergiu Hart


Here's the story from the Jerusalem Post:
PROF. SERGIU HART TO RECEIVE ISRAEL PRIZE IN ECONOMIC RESEARCH, STATISTICS

"Prof. Sergiu Hart of the Hebrew University will be awarded the Israel Prize for economic research and statistics, the Education Ministry announced on Thursday.
...
"In its decision, the prize committee called Prof. Hart – a former president of the World Association of Game Theory and member of the Academy of Sciences of Israel, Europe and the United States – one of the world’s leading economists.

“Prof. Hart specializes in the field of game theory and its comprehensive implications in various economic fields. Among other things, it has an important contribution to the understanding of the convergence to market equilibrium, the value of a player in the game, how cartels are created in the markets and the development of objective risk indices,” the committee wrote.

"In recent years, it added, Hart’s research has focused on “designing mechanisms such as tenders, which are important in online trade.”

"Hart was born in Bucharest, Romania, and immigrated to Israel at the age of 14 along with his family. After serving in the IDF, he received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tel Aviv University in mathematics with honors before completing his post-Doctoral studies at Stanford University in California.

"In 1991, Hart founded the Center for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University, whose academic committee he now chairs.
“Under his leadership the center became a unique leader in the world in the study of game theory with its implications in a wide range of fields such as economics, statistics, psychology, law, biology, philosophy and more,” the prize committee wrote in its decision.

"The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a state ceremony in Jerusalem attended by the president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president."

Monday, February 19, 2018

Making algorithms fair

Fairness is elusive, even in algorithms. "Color blindness" doesn't do the trick, since minority populations may differ in other ways from majority populations.
My attention was drawn to this news story  about ongoing work by U. Penn computer scientists: Combatting ‘Fairness Gerrymandering’ with Socially Conscious Algorithms

And here's the article on which the story is based:

Preventing Fairness Gerrymandering: Auditing and Learning for Subgroup Fairness

The most prevalent notions of fairness in machine learning are statistical definitions: they fix a small collection of pre-defined groups, and then ask for parity of some statistic of the classifier across these groups. Constraints of this form are susceptible to intentional or inadvertent "fairness gerrymandering", in which a classifier appears to be fair on each individual group, but badly violates the fairness constraint on one or more structured subgroups defined over the protected attributes. We propose instead to demand statistical notions of fairness across exponentially (or infinitely) many subgroups, defined by a structured class of functions over the protected attributes. This interpolates between statistical definitions of fairness and recently proposed individual notions of fairness, but raises several computational challenges. It is no longer clear how to audit a fixed classifier to see if it satisfies such a strong definition of fairness. We prove that the computational problem of auditing subgroup fairness for both equality of false positive rates and statistical parity is equivalent to the problem of weak agnostic learning, which means it is computationally hard in the worst case, even for simple structured subclasses.
We then derive two algorithms that provably converge to the best fair classifier, given access to oracles which can solve the agnostic learning problem. The algorithms are based on a formulation of subgroup fairness as a two-player zero-sum game between a Learner and an Auditor. Our first algorithm provably converges in a polynomial number of steps. Our second algorithm enjoys only provably asymptotic convergence, but has the merit of simplicity and faster per-step computation. We implement the simpler algorithm using linear regression as a heuristic oracle, and show that we can effectively both audit and learn fair classifiers on real datasets.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Harm reduction (for opioids) in Canada

Here's a story from the Washington Post:
At the heart of Canada’s fentanyl crisis, extreme efforts that U.S. cities may follow

"the Overdose Prevention Society, took over a vacant building next door, giving users a clean indoor place to inject drugs. There are 29 similar sites in British Columbia, the epicenter of Canada’s drug crisis, and more across the country.

“To save lives, you need a table, chairs and some volunteers,” said Sarah Blyth, the manager here.
...
"As fentanyl rampages across North America, several U.S. cities have announced that they will open the first supervised drug-consumption sites like those in Canada. Their plans illustrate the gulf between the two nations: While Justin Trudeau’s government is doubling down on its “harm reduction” approach, any U.S. organization that tries to follow suit would be violating federal law and risking a confrontation with the Justice Department.
************
See also this academic paper
Addressing the Nation’s Opioid Epidemic: Lessons from an Unsanctioned Supervised Injection Site in the U.S.
Kral, Alex H. et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine , Volume 53 , Issue 6 , 919 - 922

and this January 2017 news story
Awash in overdoses, Seattle creates safe sites for addicts to inject illegal drugs