Saturday, February 17, 2018

School choice and privilege in Washington D.C.

A benefit (or a cost) of having clearly defined rules is that you can see when exceptions are made. (What could look like flexibility in a private sector environment can look like corruption in a public school system.) The Washington Post has the story:

"A D.C. deputy mayor resigned Friday after helping the public schools chancellor bypass the city’s notoriously competitive lottery system and secure a coveted slot for his teenage daughter at a top high school.

"The resignation of Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer C. Niles is immediate, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said Friday. The mayor said in an interview that she has ordered Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson to issue a public apology and has referred the matter to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability and to the inspector general to examine whether the head of the city’s traditional public school system violated the code of conduct.

“My decision was wrong and I take full responsibility for my mistake,” Wilson said in a statement. “While I understand that many of you will be angered and disappointed by my actions, I’m here today to apologize and ask for your forgiveness.”

From the Mayor's twitter stream:

Friday, February 16, 2018

Sex work, Craigslist, and the law; podcast with Scott Cunningham

Here's a link to an interview with Scott Cunningham, whose work on sex work I've blogged about before. There's a surprising amount of discussion about causal inference and differences in differences. (I always suspected that econometrics was sexy, but this is the first time I’ve heard a podcast about that.)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Bermuda steps backward on same sex marriage

The NY Times has the story:
Bermuda Outlaws Gay Marriage, Less Than a Year After It Became Legal

"Bermuda has forbidden same-sex marriage, only nine months after legalizing it, in what advocates for gay and lesbian rights called a disappointing setback.

"Same-sex marriage became legal in Bermuda, a British overseas territory, in May as a result of a ruling by the island’s Supreme Court.

"But the unions are unpopular with some voters.

"In 2016, Bermudians voted against same-sex marriage in a referendum, and after the court ruling in May, the territory’s legislature drafted a bill banning same-sex marriage but giving all couples legal recognition as domestic partners. Parliament adopted the Domestic Partnership Act in December, and on Wednesday the territory’s governor, John Rankin, signed it into law.

"The British prime minister, Theresa May, said Britain was “seriously disappointed,” but the Foreign Office said on Thursday it would be inappropriate to block the measure.

"Same-sex marriage became legal in England, Wales and Scotland in 2014, but it is not permitted in Northern Ireland. The issue has been divisive in Britain’s overseas territories, which control their own internal affairs but rely on Britain for defense and for representation in the international community."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Algorithms for Valentines Day, in the WSJ (update: and elsewhere)

The "Numbers" column in the Wall Street Journal salutes Valentines Day by discussing the deferred acceptance algorithm, and mentioning some of its applications.
You May Now Kiss the Algorithm
A mathematical solution ensures no one is paired with an unacceptable mate
by Jo Craven McGinty

It opens with this encouraging line about stable matching:
"Sorry, love birds. Sometimes, you have to take what you can get."

If you can't read the rest at the above link, try the link at Ms. McGinty's twitter account (or maybe it will even work from here:  via ).

One thing not emphasized in the column is that the man-optimal stable matching and the woman-optimal stable matching are very often the same or nearly so.

Update: even the Nobel foundation can't resist the Valentine's Day connection. Here's their facebook post

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Market design and artificial intelligence (AI) by Milgrom and Tadelis

Two veteran market designers reflect on how AI is entering market design, building on their recent work on the incentive spectrum auction, and on identifying problematic online sellers from text analysis of post-transaction messaging:

How Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Can Impact Market Design

Paul R. MilgromSteven Tadelis

NBER Working Paper No. 24282
Issued in February 2018
NBER Program(s):Industrial OrganizationProductivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship 
In complex environments, it is challenging to learn enough about the underlying characteristics of transactions so as to design the best institutions to efficiently generate gains from trade. In recent years, Artificial Intelligence has emerged as an important tool that allows market designers to uncover important market fundamentals, and to better predict fluctuations that can cause friction in markets. This paper offers some recent examples of how Artificial Intelligence helps market designers improve the operations of markets, and outlines directions in which it will continue to shape and influence market design.

Here's an ungated version:
How Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Can Impact Market Design
by Paul R. Milgrom  and Steve Tadelis

Monday, February 12, 2018

Congratulations to Paul Milgrom: 2017 CME Group-MSRI Prize

The award ceremony is today:  2017 CME Group-MSRI Prize

The 12th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications will be awarded to PAUL MILGROMShirley and Leonard Ely professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Economics and professor, by courtesy, at both the Department of Management Science and Engineering and the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, at a luncheon in Chicago on February 12, 2018.
The CME Group-MSRI Prize is awarded to an individual or a group to recognize originality and innovation in the use of mathematical, statistical or computational methods for the study of the behavior of markets, and more broadly of economics.
About Paul Milgrom
Paul Milgrom's primary research is directed to designing auctions for multiple unique but related items. Along with Robert Wilson, he introduced the initial design for sales of radio spectrum licenses in the United States. He has designed new auctions for Internet advertising and for procuring complex services. Research on incentives and complexity are combined to create auctions that are simple and straightforward for bidders, yet which dramatically improve resource allocation compared to traditional auction designs.
After earning his PhD at the GSB, Milgrom taught at Northwestern University and Yale before returning to Stanford. He has made well-known contributions to many areas of economics, including auctions, incentive theory, industrial economics, economic history, economics of manufacturing, economics of organizations, and game theory. His book coauthored with John Roberts, Economics, Organization and Management, opened a new area to economic research.
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and winner of the 2008 Nemmers Prize in Economics and the 2012 BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge award.
About the event
Prior to the lunch and award presentation, a panel discussion on Frontiers of Research in Market Design will be held with the following panelists:
  • Mohammad Akbarpour, Assistant Professor of Economics, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University
  • Piotr Dworczak, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Chicago
  • Shengwu Li, Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows, Department of Economics, Harvard University
  • Ellen Muir, Research Fellow, School of Mathematics & Statistics, The University of Melbourne
Luncheon remarks, an appreciation of the life and work of Paul Milgrom:
  • Roger Myerson, Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago
Paul Milgrom will present at talk on A Market Process to Reallocate Radio Spectrum.
2017 CME Group-MSRI Prize Selection Committee:
  • David Eisenbud (chair), Director, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute
  • Lars Peter Hansen, Homer J. Livingston Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Economics and Statistics at the University of Chicago. 2008 CME-MSRI Prize. 2013 Nobel Prize Winner
  • Bengt Holmstrรถm, the Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and 2013 recipient of the CME-MSRI Prize. 2016 Nobel Prize Winner.
  • R. Preston McAfee, Chief Economist & Corp VP, Microsoft
  • Leo Melamed, Chairman Emeritus, CME Group
  • Roger Myerson, Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago. 2007 Nobel Prize Winner
  • Maureen O'Hara, Robert W. Purcell Professorship of Management; and Professor of Finance, SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University
  • Myron Scholes, Frank E. Buck Professor of Finance, Emeritus, Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • Hugo Sonnenschein, Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago
  • Jean Tirole, Scientific Director of Industrial Economics Institute (IDEI) and Member of the Toulouse School of Economics and 2010 recipient of the CME-MSRI Prize
Here's an earlier announcement, of this prize and some others. Paul is deservedly a prize magnet, and this year he won three notable prizes.
Paul wins CME-MSRI Prize

Update:  and here's today's story from the CME

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Opioids and pharma sales

Prescription pain medicines have played a significant role in the opioid epidemic.  Recently, the makers of OxyContin have decided to stop direct marketing it to doctors. Stat has the story:
End of an era: Purdue to stop marketing opioids to doctors

"Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, said it would no longer actively market opioid products — a major about-face for a company increasingly viewed as a principal culprit in the country’s addiction and overdose crisis.
The company said it is reducing its sales staff by more than half, and that its remaining salespeople will no longer visit doctor’s offices to push their product. Instead, the company said it will direct prescribers to materials published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the office of the U.S. surgeon general.
"The health insurer Cigna also announced in October it would no longer cover OxyContin through employer-based plans, shortly after the pharmaceutical industry lobby group PhRMA broadly endorsed policies that limit opioid prescriptions to seven days."