Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Merit versus financial need in college financial aid

Colleges give discounts. Who knew?  The WSJ has the story:

Prizes for Everyone: How Colleges Use Scholarships to Lure Students
Merit awards are important component of many schools’ enrollment strategies

"At George Washington University, nearly half of all undergraduates receive the school’s Presidential Academic Scholarship. The prizes go to “the most competitive applicants in the pool,” admissions materials say, and include awards of $5,000 to $30,000 for each student.

At some other colleges, a solid majority of students get similarly hefty scholarships. At still others, virtually everyone gets them.

Hundreds of colleges and universities are using academic scholarships and other merit-based financial aid to gain an edge in a battle for students. The scholarships make students feel wanted and let families think they’re getting a good deal, like a shopper who buys an expensive sweater on sale."

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


I am on my way to the auto show in Beijing as a guest of NIO, the Chinese electric car company.

From Google translate:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Stanford celebrates Paul Milgrom

Paul Milgrom on challenging the status quo to solve real-world problems

"The author of more than 100 seminal research papers and three books, Milgrom is most admired for his role in 1993 in designing, along with Stanford Professor Robert Wilson, the format used by governments to lease airwaves to mobile phone carriers. To date, "the U.S. Treasury has received more than $100 billion from these spectrum auctions, in which Milgrom and Wilson developed a way for bidders to see prices as they change and adjust the types of licenses they seek. Countries around the world use the format.
In 2017, the U.S. government undertook a novel spectrum auction that may prove to be Milgrom's greatest professional achievement to date. Leading a small team of economists and computer scientists, Milgrom created a simple bidding format for a highly complex problem in which the rights to TV broadcasting airwaves were, for the first time, converted and sold to mobile carriers and broadband providers. The feat was remarkable, not just because it led to $19.8 billion in licenses, but because its success depended on the ability to conduct enormously complex computations instantaneously.
"This [was] by far the most complicated resource allocation ever attempted, anywhere in the world," says Milgrom. It was also his first real encounter with artificial intelligence — and the power of it to transform his work and the entire field of economics has Milgrom thinking about radically new ways of constructing markets in coming decades.
Thanks in part to the team’s work, the FCC received the 2018 Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Advanced Analytics, Operations Research, and Management Science.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Deceased donor kidney exchange chain in Italy (and some Italian kidney politics)

First, some excellent transplant news from Italy: A deceased donor kidney exchange transplant chain has been conducted there. Here's some of the (English language) press release.

"On March 14th, for the first time in the world, the first live kidney transplantation chain between incompatible donor-recipient pairs (the so-called "cross over" program) triggered by a deceased donor was successfully launched in Italy.
The complex study phase for implementing the program, presented by Dr. Lucrezia Furian, member of the kidney transplant team of Padua University hospital, during the General Meeting of the Transplant Network, requested a careful retrospective evaluation of the data related to incompatible donors-recipient couples, a scrupulous analysis of the aspects related to efficacy, ethical and logistical problems and the development of algorithms for optimization of crossover chains. This study was conducted as part of an interdisciplinary research project funded by the University of Padua which involved, together with the transplant center team, researchers from the Department of Economics and Business Sciences and the Padua University Mathematics Department, led by Prof. Antonio Nicolò, scientific director of the research project. "

Antonio NicolòProfessor of Economics at the University of Padua, has written about kidney exchange.
Here are some of my earlier posts about starting kidney exchange chains with deceased donors:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The announcement also drew from the depths some curious parts of transplant politics in Italy (and in Europe more generally), where Global Kidney Exchange (GKE) has received both strong support, and organized opposition.
Here's an article from Corriere Della Sera (MARCH 16, 2018), which quotes the director of the Italian National Transplant Center as celebrating that the chain did not benefit any patient-donor pairs from poor countries, as in the proposal for GKE, which he condemns. In particular, he attacks one of the transplant surgeons involved in GKE, Ignazio Marino, a former Mayor of Rome.

This led to the following reply (in Italian, of which I am a coauthor:)

Here's the google translate of our letter:
"On 16/3 the Corriere described the transplant a Padova of a kidney taken from one deceased person for a patient who he had the wife's willingness to donate the organ but could not do it being incompatible from the immune point of view.
The lady then donated one kidney to another patient, thus helping another person. Congratulations to the living donor and to the family of the deceased donor: they are the real heroes of transplant surgery. They go also praised the doctors who performed the interventions. We must however rectify several incorrect information. It is important that the team by Paolo Rigotti has turned into reality an idea, but it is not true what the Corriere and, apparently also the Head of the National Transplant Center, that "so far nobody had thought of it". The concept was known to the whole scientific world since 2016 because published, by two signatories of this letter, on the American Journal of Transplantation. It is not even true that there are no algorithms or studies.
They have existed for years and on their basis one of the signatories of this letter received in 2012 the Nobel Prize. It is also false as written that "in the US the hypothesis among the polemics is the recourse to living Filipino donors who in exchange could take advantage of a transplant free for the sick relative ». And then defamatory to affirm that "ours surgeon Ignazio Marino "(our of whom?) would support this practice. It is true instead that there is a project (Global Kidney Exchange) that in the US has not seen any conflict, but the endorsement, in 2017, of the American Society for Transplant Surgeons, the society which brings together all the transplant surgeons. Furthermore, on January 22, 2018, the President of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Prof. Walter Ricciardi, in his role as a member of the Executive Board of the Organization World Health Organization has promoted this idea which has since been viewed on the WHO website. Is an idea born from the desire to help the the largest possible number of patients. In practice, if one of us wanted to give a kidney a a loved one, but can not because he has a blood group B, and the person who loves needs a kidney from a donor with a blood group A, that transplant impossible can be achieved because in there are two others in the world people who love each other and have groups opposing blood. Making them meet yes they can transplant patients otherwise they will not transplantable. This is what we illustrated in Rome, in a conference promoted by the Italian NIH, January 15, 2018. Yes it is a revolutionary project if one thinks that only in sub-Saharan Africa every year about 5 million people die because they have no access to hemodialysis or to kidney transplantation.
Ignazio R. Marino Professor of Surgery,
Jefferson University
Cataldo Doria Professor of Surgery,
Jefferson University
Michael Rees, Professor of Urology,
University of Toledo
Alvin E. Roth Professor of Economics, University
of Stanford and Harvard, Nobel Economics 2012
And here are some previous blog posts relating to kidney exchange politics in Italy, as discussed in the letter.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Saturday, April 21, 2018

FCC receives Edelman award for incentive spectrum auction

Advancing wireless communication: FCC awarded the 2018 INFORMS Edelman Award, the leading award in analytics and operations research

"The FCC conducted the world’s first two-sided “Incentive Auction” to meet the exploding demand for wireless services by reclaiming valuable low-band electromagnetic spectrum from TV broadcasters. By purchasing spectrum from TV broadcasters and reselling it to wireless providers, the auction repurposed 84 MHz of TV spectrum for mobile broadband, next-generation “5-G,” and other wireless uses, raised nearly $20 billion in revenue, and contributed over $7 billion to reduce the federal deficit. In addition, operations research enabled many TV stations to remain on their original channels, saving an estimated $200 million in relocation costs.  "

I have written quite a number of posts focusing on the incentive auction, and on the dream team led by Paul Milgrom; here's one of the first:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Friday, April 20, 2018

Parag Pathak wins the American Economic Association's Clark Medal

Here's the announcement, which describes Parag's work well:
Parag Pathak, Clark Medalist 2018

Parag Pathak

See my earlier posts involving Pathak here.

Congratulations Parag, on a well deserved award!

Here's MIT's celebration of Parag:
Parag Pathak wins John Bates Clark Medal
MIT economist lauded for work on education, market-design mechanisms.

Should (government) economists be licensed? (Replies from a panel of academic economists)

The question below, on Occupational Licensing for Economists, is the latest question answered by the distinguished panel of (academic) economists who make up Chicago Booth's IGM Forum.  (IGM = Initiative on Global Markets.)

It took me a moment to parse the question, i.e. to figure out that "disagree" means that requiring a Ph.D. would be a good thing. (A number of those who did disagree nevertheless noted that the word "requiring" was perhaps stronger than they would like.)

For no particular reason, I'm reminded of the old Soviet joke about the party chairman reviewing the Victory Day Parade of troops marching and flying and riding before him in the Kremlin. At the end of the parade comes a jeep full of men in suits, and he inquires of the Field Marshall next to him on the grandstand: "Comrade Field Marshall, who are those people, and why are they in the parade?" To which the Field Marshall replies: Comrade Secretary, those are the economists. You have no idea the damage they can do."

I say it's a Soviet joke, but of course I heard in English, as a child in New York. So, during a visit to Moscow, I took the opportunity of saying to one of my local colleagues "I know a joke that I was told was an old Soviet joke." He listened to me tell it, and before I could identify the men in suits, he jumped in with the equivalent punchline he knew "they are Gosplan!"    So it turns out to be an old Soviet joke in Moscow as well as in NY.

That said, and to the point of the IGM question above, here in the U.S. I find myself missing the government economists of yore...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Antitrust and competition in an internet economy: conference at the Stigler Center

Here's where I'll be today (unfortunately only for the first day of a two day conference), speaking about promoting/preserving competition in matching markets:


APRIL 19–20, 2018

About the Conference
The economic and societal role of the handful of large companies known as “digital platforms" has grown dramatically in the last decade. Google, Amazon, and Facebook are not only transforming communication, media, and retail but have the potential to transform many other industries. While they invest billions in research and development and propel important innovation, they also raise many policy questions with regard to their dominance in many markets, the vast consumer data they collect and own, and their influence on the markets for news, information, and ideas. On April 19 and 20, 2018, the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business will dedicate its annual Antitrust and Competition conference to the topic of “Digital Platforms and Concentration.”
Issues to be discussed at the conference include, among others:
  • The characteristics and market power of two-sided markets 
  • How competition can be promoted in a world of network effects 
  • The economics of free products and the challenges they pose to antitrust and existing law 
  • The collection, monetization, and ownership of personal data 
  • Digital companies’ foray into the physical world
  • How and to what degree digital companies are involved in political decision making
  • How the startup ecosystem is affected by the presence of big players 
The invitation-only conference will bring together approximately 50 economists, law scholars, intellectuals, venture capitalists, and business people for two days of discussion. The keynote speakers will be Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, Alvin Roth, the 2012 Nobel laureate in economics, and Jean Tirole, the 2014 Nobel laureate in economics.
The conference will be by invitation only. Individuals interested in receiving an invitation, please submit your invitation request here.
Watch Live
The conference will be LIVE-STREAMED. See video link HERE. 
Times are listed in Central Time.
Times are listed in Central Time.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
8:00 a.m. – 8:20 a.m.
8:20 a.m. – 8:25 a.m.
Welcome remarks Guy Rolnik, Conference Organizer, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
8:25 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Opening remarks Daniel Diermeier, Provost, University of Chicago
8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
The Rise of Digital Platforms
The economic and societal role of digital platforms has grown dramatically in the last decade. Are the large Internet companies really “platforms”? Can they have outsized influence in many market and industries? What explains the size and success of these companies? Are they designing their products to be addictive? What are the most important policy questions that these companies raise?
Moderator: Patrick Foulis, New York Bureau Chief, The Economist
  • Robert Epstein, Senior Research Psychologist, American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology
  • Tristan Harris, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Center for Humane Technology
  • Kevin Murphy, George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Fiona Scott Morton, Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics, Yale University School of Management
  • Chad Syverson, Eli B. and Harriet B. Williams Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Ben Thompson, Author and Founder, Stratechery
10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.
10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. 
Big Data: Economic, Ownership, Legal, and Political Aspects
User data is arguably digital platforms’ most valuable asset. How data are used has profound economic, social, and political implications. What are these implications? Where along the value chain do data belong? Could reassigning ownership of the data and making it easily available to users promote competition and address privacy concerns?
Moderator: Ludwig Siegele, Technology Editor, The Economist
  • Julia Angwin, Senior Reporter, ProPublica
  • Dennis Carlton, David McDaniel Keller Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Richard Schmalensee, Howard W. Johnson Professor of Economics and Management and Dean Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Jonathan Taplin, Director Emeritus, Annenberg Innovation Lab, University of Southern California
  • Luigi Zingales, Robert C. McCormack Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance; Faculty Director, Stigler Center, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Lunch Keynote Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, US Department of Justice
1:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
1:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
The Big Five and Political Power
The largest technology companies—Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple—are active political players, using the traditional levers of lobbying and financing of research, think tanks, and political campaigns. However, it is their market power, and leverage over media outlets, that opens up new avenues for these platforms and foreign actors that exploit vulnerabilities in their systems to dominate and control the flow of political information among voters. How do they influence political discourse, the marketplace of ideas, and democracy more broadly?
Moderator: Matt Stoller, Fellow, Open Markets Insitute
  • Scott Cleland, President, Precursor LLC
  • Ellen Goodman, Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School and Co-director, Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law
  • Barry Lynn, Executive Director, Open Markets Institute
  • Guy Rolnik, Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Management, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
3:15 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Digital Platforms: Market Power and Market Failures Digital platforms (e.g. Facebook, Google, Twitter) rely on network effects to build vast ecosystems of users, advertisers and third-party developers, and to attain substantive market power. How should that market power be measured and what concerns does it raise for competition and entry? What are the market failures left unaddressed by these digital platforms and how should we expect them to govern their respective ecosystems? 
Moderator: Jesse Eisinger, Senior Reporter and Editor, ProPublica
  • Jay Pil Choi, University Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University
  • Andrei Hagiu, Visiting Associate Professor of Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Sarit Markovich, Clinical Associate Professor of Strategy and Associate Chair of the Strategy Department, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
  • Fiona Scott Morton, Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics, Yale University School of Management
  • Carl Shapiro, Professor of the Graduate School, Haas School of Business and Department of Economics, University of California at Berkeley
5:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Reception and dinner
Dinner Keynote - Alvin Roth, Nobel Laureate and Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics, Stanford University
Friday, April 20, 2018
8:00 a.m. – 8:40 a.m.
Breakfast Keynote - Mario Monti, President, Bocconi University; Former Prime Minister of Italy; Former EU Competition Commissioner
8:40 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Who’s Benefiting? Revisiting the Innovation and Start-Up EcosystemHow does the dominance of the digital platforms impact the startup ecosystem? As big digital players often scoop up startups or replicate startups’ ideas, what constitutes success for emerging startups? How does acquisition versus IPO serve competition and innovation? Is innovation concentrated mainly in the pre-acquisition phase? 

Moderator: Adam Lashinsky, Executive Editor, Fortune
  • Elvir Causevic, Managing Director and Co-Head, Tech+IP, Houlihan Lokey 
  • Matt Perault, Director, Public Policy, Facebook
  • Albert Wenger, Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures
  • Glen Weyl, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research New England and Visiting Senior Research Scholar, Department of Economics and Law School, Yale University
10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.
10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Can Government Resist Corporate Influence?
The Big Five have met little government intervention as they have gained dominance and brought about market consolidation. Has government treated digital platforms differently than other corporations? Are digital platforms more politically influential than other big corporations and, if so, why?
Moderator: Rana Foroohar, Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor, Financial Timesand Global Economic Analyst, CNN
  • Alejandra Palacios, Commissioner and Chair, Mexico Federal Economic Competition Commission (COFECE)
  • Randal Picker, James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School
  • Daniel Stevens, Executive Director, Campaign for Accountability, Google Transparency Project
  • Tim Wu, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
  • Luigi Zingales, Robert C. McCormack Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance; Faculty Director, Stigler Center, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Lunch Keynote - Jean Tirole, Nobel Laureate and Chairman, Toulouse School of Economics
1:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
1:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
The Amazon Phenomenon
Amazon has transformed e-commerce and now begins its foray into the physical world with its acquisition of Whole Foods. The giant e-tailer offers a quintessential case study in how digital platforms are reimagining traditional markets and impacting society at large. Who will be “Amazoned” next? What lessons can we learn from Amazon’s experience with antitrust? As Amazon looks to situate its second headquarters, some believe the bid is a race to the bottom. What is the anticipated net impact of hosting the headquarters on a winner city and state?

Moderator: David Dayen, Contributing Writer, The Intercept
  • Joshua Gans, Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Professor of Strategic Management, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
  • Austan Goolsbee, Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Lina Khan, Director, Legal Policy, Open Markets Institute
  • Maurice Stucke, Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law and Of Counsel, The Konkurrenz Group
  • Ben Thompson, Author and Founder, Stratechery
2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
US vs EU: Antitrust, Data, and Privacy Policy
Questions about digital markets and competition have begun gaining prevalence and commanding more regulatory attention. While the EU has taken aggressive measures against the digital platforms, including a €2.4 billion fine on Google and introducing significant privacy laws (GDPR), regulators in the United States have demonstrated a more lenient approach. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the EU versus US policy choices? 

Moderator: John O'Sullivan, Economics Editor, The Economist
  • Ariel Ezrachi, Slaughter and May Professor of Competition Law and Director, Centre for Competition Law and Policy, University of Oxford
  • Justus Haucap, Director, Duesseldorf Institute for Competition Economics, Heinrich-Heine University of Duesseldorf
  • William Kovacic, Global Competition Professor and Director, Competition Law Center, George Washington University Law School
  • Gary Reback, Of Counsel, Carr & Ferrell LLP
  • Thomas Vinje, Partner and Chairman, Global Antitrust Group, Clifford Chance LLP
4:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Closing Remarks - Luigi Zingales, Faculty Director, Stigler Center, University of Chicago Booth School of Business