Egg Donors Fight the Oocyte Cartel

Alex Tabarrok explores the world of egg donation, which is heavily regulated by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).  The two organizations effectively limit egg donor compensation to $5,000-$10,000, acting as a "buyer's cartel," in Tabarrok's words:

In 2011, Lindsay Kamakahi launched a class action suit against ASRM-SART challenging their horizontal price-fixing agreement as per se illegal under the Sherman Antitrust Act. ASRM-SART tried to have the case dismissed but a judge recently denied the dismissal in the process making it clear that the plaintiffs have a good case.

ASRM-SART argue that their maximum price is really about protecting women and that compensation “should not be so excessive as to constitute undue inducement.” Egg donation does involve extensive screening, time and some health risks. One would think, however, that the proper response for those interested in protecting women would be to ensure that the women are fully informed and that they are paid high wages not low wages.

A Wake-Up App That Economists Would Love

Cartoonist Manu Cornet has a simple economic fix for oversleeping.

(HT: Hans van der Drift)

FREAK-est Links

1. A German cafe offers free coffee, but charges by the minute for seats. (HT: David Wigram)

2. Harvard and the Rockefeller Foundation to offer social impact bonds in several states.

3. In Spain, a new step in dog-waste management: unscooped poop is hand-delivered back to the owner. (HT: Peter Kauss)

4. The power of words and names. (HT: RealClearScience)

5. New study shows that lack of sleep decreases men's ability to determine if women want sex or not. (HT: V Brenner)

Fewer Helmets, Higher Healthcare Costs

We've written before about an unintended consequences of state repeals of motorcycle helmet laws: more organs available for transplant.  Here's one more consequence, from Michigan, which stopped requiring helmets last year:

State legislators changed the law last year so that only riders younger than 21 must wear helmets. The average insurance payment on a motorcycle injury claim was $5,410 in the two years before the law was changed, and $7,257 after it was changed - an increase of 34 percent, the study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found.

After adjusting for the age and type of motorcycle, rider age, gender, marital status, weather and other factors, the actual increase was about 22 percent relative to a group of four comparative states, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, the study found.

"The cost per injury claim is significantly higher after the law changed than before, which is consistent with other research that shows riding without a helmet leads to more head injuries," David Zuby, chief research officer for the data institute and an affiliated organization, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said.

(HT: Kevin Murphy)

How to Skip Military Service in Iran: Give a Kidney

Iran already has one of the most radical kidney policies in the world. Now Nobel laureate Al Roth reports on his blog that the country's military is offering an incentive to boost supply:

Google translate renders the headline "Donate one of your kidneys to be exempted from military service."

An Easy Way to Cut Down on Pill Suicides?

Ezekiel Emanuel, who's popped up in our blog and podcasts, writes in the Times about a simple way to reduce suicides:

We need to make it harder to buy pills in bottles of 50 or 100 that can be easily dumped out and swallowed. We should not be selling big bottles of Tylenol and other drugs that are typically implicated in overdoses, like prescription painkillers and Valium-type drugs, called benzodiazepines. Pills should be packaged in blister packs of 16 or 25. Anyone who wanted 50 would have to buy numerous blister packages and sit down and push out the pills one by one. Turns out you really, really have to want to commit suicide to push out 50 pills. And most people are not that committed.

The Persistence of Financial Illiteracy

Annamaria Lusardi, the doyenne of financial (il)literacy reseach (she has appeared on this blog and on Freakonomics Radio), is back with more depressing news.  The Wall Street Journal summarizes:

In fact, Americans’ grasp of concepts such as investment risk and inflation has weakened since the recovery began in mid-2009. Research released last week shows that on a five-question test (take the test here), respondents did worse in 2012 than in 2009. The average number of correct answers fell to 2.9 in 2012 from 3.0 on the test in 2009.

Unfortunately, the research indicates that most people aren't aware of their own shortcomings:

Although many respondents were short on financial education, they didn’t lack confidence about managing their books. Researchers said they found “a disconnect between self-perceptions and actions in day-to-day financial matters.” Many people who gave themselves high marks for managing their finances also were using non-bank borrowing methods, such as payday loans, or had overdrawn their checking accounts.

On the plus side, more respondents indicated they were able to cover their monthly expenses (40 percent as compared to 36 percent in 2009).

Is Paying for Blood a Good Idea After All?

An article in Science by Nicola Lacetera, Mario Macis, and Robert Slonim summarizes their research on economic incentives and blood donation (abstract; PDF). Contrary to previous studies, the researchers found that various incentives, from gift cards to a day off, increased blood donation: 

Overall, 18 of the 19 distinct incentive items offered in observational and field experimental studies increased blood donations, and the effects were larger for items of higher monetary value; only one reward offer, a free cholesterol test, had no effect. When data were available (for 15 of the items), no effect on blood safety was detected. Finally, although temporary rewards might affect long-term motivations, no post intervention effects on donations were found, including any negative effects deriving from potential motivation loss.

FREAKest Links

1. Emily Oster answers relationship questions for WSJ readers.

2. Researchers predict a 15 percent decrease in abortion rates if Roe is overturned.

3. Is self-selection responsible for music students' superior scores on the SATs?

4. Fast food consumers underestimate calories.

5. A new web documentary series about Kickstarter funding.

6. "The Beat of Sports" interviews Dave Berri about his recent post on the value of coaches.

Should We All Just Give Cash Directly to the Poor?

Silicon Valley heavyweights like Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Google have a new favorite charity: GiveDirectly, an organization that makes direct transfers (via M-Pesa) to poor people in the developing world. From Forbes:

“Instead of building hospitals, why don’t we just give poor people money? Research shows it’s effective,” [Hughes] said. Hughes, who purchased The New Republic magazine in early 2012 and serves as publisher, also joined the board of GiveDirectly.

Backing up Hughes’s point was Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Giving at Google. She told the crowd Thursday night that one of her superiors at Google was extremely skeptical when Fuller first suggested that Google back GiveDirectly. “I was told, ‘You must be smoking crack,’ ” Fuller recalled. But GiveDirectly had exactly what Google wanted: lots of data on how the recipients of cash used it to improve their nutrition, their health and their children’s education. After looking at the data, Google donated $2.5 million to GiveDirectly.

GiveDirectly stems from economist Paul Niehaus's research in India, where to limit corruption the government  makes direct cash transfers via mobile phones.  “A typical poor person is poor not because he is irresponsible, but because he was born in Africa," says Niehaus, adding that GiveDirectly's transfers have had positive impacts on nutrition, education, land, and livestock -- and haven't increased alcohol consumption.  The charity is also No. 2 on Givewell's list of recommended charities.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)