A few years ago, we made a podcast episode with Al Roth, the Stanford economist whose work on market design and matchmaking won him a Nobel Prize. His most eye-catching work involves a system to increase the supply of kidney donors (and, more important, kidney recipients). We followed up that episode with another one, the […]
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.
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.
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.
The Timesreports 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."
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.
Now, on his Market Design blog, Al Roth writes about something that's perhaps even more interesting: the opposite of repugnance. Or, as he puts it, "transactions that, as a society, we often seek to promote, for reasons other than efficiency or pure political expediency."
Here is an oversimplification of a complex problem: 1. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, a sick or dying human being can receive a transplanted organ from another human being. 2. Some of those organs must inevitably come from cadavers: i.e., you can’t give your heart to someone else and still live. But some […]
Patricia Cohen has an article in today’s Times about a recent American Enterprise Institute panel on the notion of repugnance and how it affects markets. In other words, why are some behaviors considered repugnant while others are acceptable, and how and why do such demarcations change over time? Three of the panel’s five participants — […]