Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Surrogacy in Australia

From the blog Above the Law:
A Terrible Ruling Leaves Thousands Of Children Without Legal Parents
Even the judge acknowledged that his ruling was deeply problematic.


" The Bernieres ... were an Australian couple who couldn’t conceive the old-fashioned way. Unable to have a child without help, they journeyed from their home in Melbourne to a fertility clinic in India. The hopeful parents-to-be were advised that their best chances to conceive were to use an anonymous egg donor, and a gestational carrier. The couple entered into the arrangement in 2013, and in 2014 their child was born. They brought a baby girl back to Australia. But they made the mistake of asking a Victorian court to bless the arrangement, and declare them legal parents of their own child. The court did not feel so inclined.
Justice Berman, the trial judge, agreed to let the child remain in the Bernieres’s care; however, he determined that they could not be found to be parents of the child because they did not meet the terms of the Victorian surrogacy statute, Section 60HB of the Family Law Act. The narrow statute requires that (1) surrogacy only be undertaken through a Victorian registered ART provider, (2) the procedure must be carried out in Victoria, and (3) the arrangement can only be altruistic (the surrogate cannot be paid). Further, the judge determined that without specific authority to find the Bernieres as parents to the child, his hands were tied.
Despite the fact the Mr. Bernieres was both the biological and intended parent of the child, Justice Berman determined that Mr. Bernieres could not be declared a parent to the child. But unfortunately, that judgment meant that literally no one was a legal parent of the child.
Justice Berman acknowledged that his ruling was deeply problematic for the child at issue, and noted the need for “urgent legislative change.” Two years later — and with no legislative change in sight — the case went up on appeal before the full panel of the Australian Family Court. In September 2017, the Family Court made its ruling. The Court affirmed the judgment that the judiciary had no authority to declare the Bernieres as the legal parents of the child. Here’s the order. It’s a megabummer.
Thousands Of Children Affected. The broader tragedy is that the Bernieries did not represent an isolated case. Experts estimate that 250 Australian families conceive through surrogacy arrangements abroad each year. So the implication of this ruling is that there are thousands of children in Australia with no legal parents."

Monday, November 20, 2017

Who Gets What and Why in Vietnamese: Sách Ai được gì và tại sao

Who Gets What and Why has come out in Vietnamese:
Nobel Kinh tế Giáo sư Alvin Roth – Sách Ai được gì và tại sao (Who gets what and why)




The book comes with a foreword I wrote for the Vietnamese edition, after corresponding about it with Quoc-Anh Do.  The foreword touches on translation, so it's interesting to note that Google translate at the above link doesn't yet do so well. Here is the original (instead of the automatic back translation into English of the human translation into Vietnamese by Dang Tùng.)

Foreword to the Vietnamese Edition

The translation of a book about markets from English to Vietnamese is an opportunity to remember that markets, like languages, are ancient human artifacts. Markets and languages are both tools that human beings construct together to help us coordinate with one another, and that we constantly update to meet modern needs.

Just as there are different languages, there are different kinds of markets, and different ways to organize them. Commodity markets are markets in which prices determine who gets what, and market participants can deal with one another anonymously. But many markets involve relationships, and in those markets you care who you are dealing with, and who gets what isn’t decided by prices alone.  Matching markets are markets in which you can’t just choose what you want, but also must be chosen.  Prices don’t do all the work in matching markets, and sometimes we don’t let prices play any role at all. Matching in one form or another determines who goes to which schools and universities, who gets which jobs, and who marries whom, and sometimes who gets certain kinds of medical care, like organ transplants.

Most markets and marketplaces operate in the substantial space between Adam Smith’s invisible hand and Chairman Mao’s five-year plans. Markets differ from central planning because no one but the participants themselves determines who gets what. And marketplaces differ from anything-goes laissez faire because participants enter the marketplace knowing that it has rules.

Market design is about finding rules to make markets work well. Often this is a process of trial and error. For example, in many countries, the process of school assignment and university admissions is riskier and more stressful for students than it needs to be. This book describes how my colleagues and I have helped make school choice safer and simpler for many American students, and made it likely that they will get schools that they prefer. Perhaps our experience can help Vietnamese economists and policy makers get some ideas about how to improve the famously stressful college admissions process in Vietnam.  

The book also describes how the system of matching doctors to their first jobs was redesigned in the United States and elsewhere, and some of the problems that had to be overcome in those markets, and similar ones.

I hope this book will help readers look at who gets what and how in Vietnam, and find ways to make some of those markets work better.
Alvin E. Roth
Stanford, California

12 January 2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Big Dialysis (or, why we need to increase access to transplants)

Here's a polemical story from the Washington Monthly: it gives a good picture of why it's pretty terrible to be on dialysis, but casts blame too quickly on the big dialysis companies (while downplaying the complex roles of Medicare and organ shortages...)
The Dialysis Machine
How Medicare steers low-income and minority kidney patients toward the hell of dialysis—and keeps two big companies rolling in profits.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Trump administration considers, and reconsiders, another approach to saving elephants

Here's a story about a policy the Trump administration announced and then paused on:

The Washington Post has the first story here
Trophies from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe were banned in the U.S. Trump just reversed that.  By Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears November 16

"The Trump administration is now allowing the remains of elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported to the United States as trophies, with officials signaling they will expand efforts to promote trophy hunting as a form of conservation.
African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that large sums paid for permits to hunt the animals could actually help them “by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” according to an agency statement late Wednesday.
Under the Obama administration, elephant-hunting trophies were allowed in South Africa and Namibia but not in Zimbabwe because Fish and Wildlife decided in 2015 that the nation had failed to prove that its management of elephants enhanced the population. At the time, Zimbabwe could not confirm its elephant population in a way that was acceptable to U.S. officials and did not demonstrate an ability to implement laws to protect it.
...
"The change applies to elephants shot in Zimbabwe on or after Jan. 21, 2016, and to those legally permitted to be hunted before the end of next year.
The African elephant population in that country has fallen 6 percent in recent years, according to the Great Elephant Census project. It is relatively stable in Zambia, which has decided to renew hunting after having previously banned it because of several decades of sharp decline.
...
"The shift in U.S. policy comes just days after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke established an “International Wildlife Conservation Council” to advise him on how to increase Americans’ public awareness of conservation, wildlife enforcement and the “economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling abroad to hunt.”
***********

And here's the second installment:
Trump halts big-game trophy decision By Ashley Parker November 17
"President Trump abruptly reversed his administration’s Thursday decision to allow elephants shot for sport in Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported back to the United States as trophies, saying in a tweet Friday night that he was putting the decision “on hold” until further review.
...
"Trump’s sudden tweet halted a decision by his own administration, announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday, to end a 2014 government ban on big-game trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia, saying it would help the conservation of the species."

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Open algorithms" law proposed in New York City

Here is a bill that has been proposed (and sent to committee) by the New York City Council:
Automated processing of data for the purposes of targeting services, penalties, or policing to persons.
Title: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to automated processing of data for the purposes of targeting services, penalties, or policing to persons
Summary:This bill would require agencies that use algorithms or other automated processing methods that target services, impose penalties, or police persons to publish the source code used for such processing. It would also require agencies to accept user-submitted data sets that can be processed by the agencies’ algorithms and provide the outputs to the user.


Here's a story about the proposed bill, in Education Week, which focuses on the NYC high school school-choice algorithm (which is a version of the deferred acceptance algorithm)

'Open Algorithms' Bill Would Jolt New York City Schools, Public Agencies
By Benjamin Herold

"The New York City Council is considering a requirement that all city agencies publish the source code behind algorithms they use to target services to city residents, raising the specter of significant changes in how the country's largest school district assigns students to high school, evaluates teachers, and buys instructional software.

"In an age where public officials increasingly rely on big data to make decisions, proponents describe the measure as a first-of-its-kind attempt to bolster government transparency and accountability.

"While it is undeniable that these tools help city agencies operate more effectively and offer residents more targeted impactful services, algorithms are not without issue," said the bill's author, Councilmember James Vacca, during a hearing last month on the proposed legislation.

"In our city, it is not always clear when and why agencies deploy algorithms, and when they do, it is often unclear what assumptions [those algorithms] are based upon and what data they even consider."

"The bill has sparked strong, and mixed, reactions.

"The office of Mayor Bill de Blasio says it supports the measure's intent, but objects to its scope. Other observers point to the possibility of unintended consequences, including potential security risks and a possible chilling effect on businesses worried about protecting their proprietary computer code. And the creator of the 1.1-million student New York City school system's most well-known automated decision-making system says its algorithms are already open—but that hasn't prevented widespread confusion and complaints.
...
"Indeed, one of the examples that Vacca has cited repeatedly when discussing the bill is New York's complicated high-school assignment system, one of several across the country that relies on software to match students with schools. (For a detailed description of how the system works, see this 2013 Education Week story.)
"I strongly believe the public has a right to know when decisions are made using algorithms, and they have a right to know how these decisions are made," Vacca said during the October hearing. "When the Department of Education uses an algorithm to assign children to different high schools, and a child is assigned to their sixth choice, they and their family have a right to know how that algorithm determined that their child would get their sixth choice."
In written response to questions from Education Week, Vacca said he hoped his legislation would also bring transparency and improvements to the district's "inaccurate or erratic teacher evaluations," which he said "can occasionally spit out pretty different scores for the same teachers from year to year, or low scores for good teachers."
And outside observers point out that nearly all schools, including those in New York, use a wide range of instructional and administrative software programs that rely on algorithms.
"It would be fascinating to get a peek under the hood of proprietary educational software that purports to be adaptive and personalized," said Fontaine of Data & Society. "In addition, many charter-management organizations are deeply invested in data-driven decision-making and invest significant resources in the collection, aggregation, and presentation of data to demonstrate their effectiveness."

'Complicated Material'

In a statement, the 1.1-million student New York City school system said that is reviewing the bill's potential impact.
Neil Dorosin had a more substantive take, highlighting some of the on-the-ground challenges associated with making automated decision-making accessible to the public.
Now the executive director of the nonprofit Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice, or IIPSC, Dorosin previously worked as the director of high-school-admissions operations for the New York City schools, where he helped implement the algorithm-driven high-school-assignment process that is in place today.
In an interview, Dorosin said parents and the general public are certainly entitled to know how students are assigned to schools, including the specific algorithms at work.
The problem, he said, is that the algorithm in question ... is already open to public inspection. It's called the Gale-Shapley algorithm. You can find it on Wikipedia. One of its creators, Lloyd S. Shapley, shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics with Alvin Roth, who chairs IIPSC's scientific advisory board.
In the context of New York City schools, the algorithm works by analyzing information from students and parents themselves (a rank-order listing of schools they want to attend) and from the Department of Education (each school's admissions rules and preferences.) Dorosin pointed out that the latter set of information is also public, in the district's annual high school directory."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Nava Ashraf interviews me about market design (video, 11 minutes)

Nava Ashraf and I talk about market design in this video recorded when I visited the LSE:

x

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

OneMatch for Indianapolis schools opens today

Here's an article that I think does an unusually good job of explaining both the benefits of a unified enrollment school choice system, and some of the objections it is facing as it is introduced.

1 Application Will Cover Enrollment For IPS And Indy Charter Schools  by ERIC WEDDLE.

"A new online enrollment system for families to enroll their kids in grades K-12 for the 2018-19 school year at Indianapolis Public Schools and most Marion County charter schools begins Wednesday.

"The so-called common enrollment process is a major shift for city parents and schools. Families will longer fill out separate paperwork for IPS magnet schools and neighborhood schools, or need to remember a smattering of enrollment deadlines among dozens of charter schools.

"Instead, families will log on to a website, pick the schools they want to attend, rank them in order by preference and wait to find out which school their child will attend. The first enrollment round begins Wednesday, Nov. 15, and ends January 15. Enrollment results will be announced February 15

"Cities, including Denver and New Orleans, offer a variation of the one-application approach. Support in Indianapolis has come IPS, the Mayor’s Office, most of the city’s charter schools and local education reform group The Mind Trust.

"As the new system has been rolled out some have raised concerns over the complexity and transparency of the process. 

"Caitlin Hannon, founder of Enroll Indy, the local nonprofit managing the OneMatch enrollment system, says it creates equity by simplifying where families get information about schools and using a computer algorithm to match a child with an open seat.

“It doesn't matter who your parent is,” Hannon says about how students are selected to attend schools with long waiting lists.  “It doesn't matter who you know or how much money you have or if you bake brownies for the school secretary.”

"The technology behind the system is similar to what is used for National Resident Matching Program through which most American doctors get their first job, according to the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice which creates the algorithm used by OneMatch.

"Families are expected to use Enroll Indy’s website to find a school that matches their need and interest, such as it academic performance, after-school care and transportation options.

"Though OneMatch, also part of the Enroll Indy website, families can choose up to ten schools they would want their child to attend and rank the schools in priority.

"The algorithm factors in priories associated with each student -- such as whether they live in a pre-drawn school boundary zone, if a sibling already attends a school and if a parent works for IPS -- and assigns a random lottery number.

The system runs everyone’s choice at the same time and fills open seats based on those factors, Hannon says. IPS will no longer offer waitlist positions for programs that reach capacity. Rather, Hannon says, students will be assigned their top option based on availability.

“This is not about putting you in a school that isn't a school that you want,” says Hannon, a former IPS School Board commissioner. “This is about you telling us what you want, the priorities of the school, and your random lottery number. Those are the only three factors.”

"Unlike in the past, Hannon says, the system will also explain to families why they did not get the school they wanted.

"The new system requires all schools taking part to use a single enrollment application, follow three enrollment windows and use a random lottery process to select which students make it into popular academic programs.

"But not all Indianapolis charter schools are taking part, including Christel House Academy.

Carey Dahncke, head of schools, says the charter network is taking a wait-and-see approach to OneMatch for its two schools.

“Our enrollment has been strong, so the idea of changing practice just didn't seem necessary,” he says.

"Phalen Leadership Academy also did not sign on but two IPS innovation schools managed by the company will use OneMatch.

"The two networks will continue to enroll students using their own system and deadlines.

"The IPS Community Coalition, a group critical of ongoing changes within IPS, has described the OneMatch system as being akin to the dystopian Hunger Games series. In a recent Facebook post, the group said the enrollment system dictates schools choice, not the parents.

"The parents only provide the list of 10. This starts to look like some strange robotic, authoritarian system of the allocation of scarce resources (the 'good' schools), kind of like the Hunger Games. This looks like an inhumane system, not a parent and child-friendly one," the group wrote.

"In a public response, Hannon disputed the notion that families are not choosing their schools.

"We don’t decide anything for families -- they just apply and we run a lottery -- the same way it’s been done for years but in a more efficient place so families don’t have to apply all over the city," she wrote.

"Enrollment for 2018-19 will be held during three rounds: Nov. 15 - Jan. 15 with results on Feb. 15; Jan. 16 - April 15 with results on May 15; April 16 - June 15 with results on June 30. Late enrollment starts July 1.

Enrollment for IPS preschool students will continue to be handled by the SchoolMint application system."