Archives for Al Roth



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.”

Read More »



A New Matching Market for Dog Buyers

Al Roth, the Nobel Prize winner and market design guru who’s worked on everything from organ exchanges to school matching, posts a reader email about Wagaroo, a new matching market for dog buyers and responsible breeders. Christine Exley, an Economics grad student at Stanford, writes:

It is estimated that 23.5 million people plan to acquire a pet every year.  Of this, 1.5 million intend to buy their pet from a breeder, 5 million are committed to adopting their pet, and 17 million are undecided about the source for their new pet. At the same time, 3 million dogs and cats are killed every year in shelters because they cannot find a home. When you account for people acquiring dogs from shelters, rescue groups, the street (i.e., strays), friends, family members and purebred breeders, there are still over 6 million people acquiring dogs and cats from “other” sources. These other sources (as well as some of the listed sources) are likely puppy mills – places that mass-produce dogs for profit in horrid conditions.

Read More »



Al Roth Takes Home the Nobel Prize

Hearty congratulations to Harvard economist Al Roth (now at Stanford), whose work has been featured on many occasions here at the Freakonomics blog!

When I talk about economists, one of the greatest compliments I give is to say that they changed the way people think about the world.  Al Roth definitely fits into that category.  The type of economics he is best known for is what is called “Market Design.”  Essentially, it means bringing market-type thinking to areas in which historically non-market allocation mechanisms have been used.  A few examples of the areas Roth has explored are matching fledgling doctors to hospitals for their residency, matching students to public schools in school choice programs, and matching kidney donors with those who need a kidney.

I know Roth changed my thinking because the first time I read Roth’s work in this area I had a strong reaction: this isn’t really economics. Read More »



Legacy of a Jerk

Season 3, Episode 5

Since the beginning of civilization, human waste has been considered worthless at best and quite often dangerous. What if it turns out we were wrong? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner explores the power of poop, focusing on an experimental procedure called a fecal transplant (some call it a “transpoosion”), which may offer promising results not only for intestinal problems but also obesity and neurological disorders.  We’ll talk to two doctors at the vanguard of this procedure and a patient who says it changed his life. Read More »



The Future of Repugnance

Al Roth, whom we’ve blogged about in the past, is known (to me, at least) as the King of Repugnance.

Not that Roth is himself in any way repugnant (quite the opposite), but he is masterful at  thinking about the kind of transactions that we find morally or ethically or otherwise disturbing and how the trends of repugnance shift over time.

For a forthcoming book anthology called In 100 Years (inspired, Roth tells us, by a 1930 essay by Keynes called “Economic Possibilities of Our Grandchildren"), Roth has written an essay (PDF here) about the future of repugnance: Read More »



Some Links Worth Following

1. President Obama is reading The World America Made, which downplays the America-is-in-decline meme; meanwhile, Latin America pushes the America-is-in-decline meme.

2. Austan Goolsbee is on Twitter, and has lots to say. (This will surprise no one who read this.)

3. If you have a Godfather-obsessed kid, as I do, you may want to read The Godfather Effect. (Good WSJ review here.)

4. “Is economic repugnance closely related to biological disgust?” Yes, this is from our friend Al Roth. More here on disgust and food. Read More »



School-Matching Failures, and Advice From the Man Who Designed the System

The Times reports on New York City kids who fail to get into any of the high schools they apply to. Al Roth, who helped design the school-choice program but has no hand in running it, reports on why this failure occurs. (One big problem, from the Times article: a school like Baruch College Campus H.S. received 7,606 applications for 120 seats, many of them coming from outside of Manhattan; but the school “has not accepted out-of-district students in many years, a fact not mentioned in the Education Department’s school profile.”

Roth’s advice:

For students: use all 12 choices. The system is designed so listing 12 choices won’t hurt your chance of getting one of your top ones. But if you don’t get one of your top choices, having some other schools on your list that you wouldn’t mind going to will save you some heartache.

For schools and guidance counselors: give these kids more useful advice! They should be told if the lists they are submitting include only schools for which they have little or no chance of being accepted.



You Say Repugnant, I Say … Let’s Do It!

Some ideas are downright repugnant. Like … paying for human organs.

On the other hand, is it any less repugnant to let thousands of people die every year for want of a kidney that a lot of people might be willing to give up if they were able to be compensated? Read More »