In Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design (Mariner Books, 2015), Nobel Memorial Prize Winner Alvin Roth explains his pioneering work in the study of matching markets such as kidney exchange, marriage, job placements for new doctors and new professors, and enrollments in schools or colleges. In these markets, “buyers” and “sellers” must each chose the other, and getting the prices right is only a small part of what makes for a successful transaction, if cash is even involved at all. Roth’s work has led the way in taking microeconomics outside the halls of academic theory to become a practical “engineering” tool for policymakers and businesses.
In our interview, we range far beyond the examples from the book to discuss the implications of his work for the design of tech’s market-making “platform” businesses like Airbnb, Amazon, Lyft, or Uber, the challenges he faces when countries or people view some kinds of transactions as “repugnant” or morally unacceptable, and the reasons why San Francisco’s school district (unlike Boston’s or New York’s) chose not to implement the un-gameable school choice plan his team devised for them.
Host Peter Lorentzen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of San Francisco, where he leads a new digital economy-focused Master's program in Applied Economics.
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