Alvin E. Roth: Wikis


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Alvin E. Roth
Replace this image male.svg
Birth December 19, 1951 (1951-12-19) (age 58)
Nationality United States
Field Game theory, market design, experimental economics

Alvin E. "Al" Roth (born December 19, 1951) is an American economist currently serving as the George Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Roth has made significant contributions to the fields of game theory, market design and experimental economics.



Al Roth graduated from Columbia University in 1971 with a degree in Operations research. He then moved to Stanford University, receiving both his masters and PhD in Operations research there in 1973 and 1974 respectively.

After leaving Stanford, Roth went on to teach at the University of Illinois and the University of Pittsburgh before joining the faculty of Harvard as a full professor in 1998. He has taught there ever since.[1]

Roth is an Alfred P. Sloan fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[1][2][3] He is also a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and the Econometric Society.[4][5]


Roth has worked in the fields of game theory, market design and experimental economics. In particular, he helped redesign mechanisms for selecting medical residents, New York City high schools and Boston primary schools.


Case Study in Game theory

Roth's 1984 paper on the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) highlighted the system designed by John Stalknaker and F. J. Mullen in 1952. The system was built on theoretical foundations independently introduced by David Gale and Lloyd Shapley in 1962.[6] Roth proved that the NRMP was both stable and strategy-proof for unmarried residents but deferred to future study the question of how to match married couples efficiently.[7]

In 1999 Roth redesigned the matching program to ensure stable matches even with married couples.[8][9]

New York City public school system

Roth later helped design the market to match New York City public school students to high schools as incoming freshmen. Previously, the school district had students mail in a list of their five preferred schools in rank order, then mailed a photocopy of that list to each of the five schools. As a result, schools could tell whether or not students had listed them as their first choice. This meant that some students really had a choice of one school, rather than five. It also meant that students had an incentive to hide their true preferences. Roth and his colleagues designed an incentive-compatible mechanism and presented it to the school board in 2003. The school board accepted the measure as the method of selection for New York City public school students. [10][11]

Boston's public school system

Working with Tayfun Sonmez, Roth presented a similar measure to Boston's public school system in 2004. Here the Boston system gave so much preference to an applicant's first choice that were a student to not receive her first or second choice it was likely that she would not be matched with any school on her list and be administratively assigned to schools which had vacancies. Some Boston parents had informally recognized this feature of the system and developed detailed lists in order to avoid having their children administratively assigned.[12][13] Boston held public hearings on the school selection system and finally settled on a modified version of the algorithm used to match New York City students.[14]

New England Program for Kidney Exchange

Roth is also a founder of the New England Program for Kidney Exchange[15], a registry and matching program that pairs compatible kidney donors and recipients.[16]

The program was designed to operate primarily through the use of two pairs of incompatible donors. Each donor was incompatible with her partner but could be compatible with another donor who was likewise incompatible with his partner. Francis Delmonico, a transplant surgeon at Harvard Medical School, describes a typical situation,[17]

Kidney exchange enables transplantation where it otherwise could not be accomplished. It overcomes the frustration of a biological obstacle to transplantation. For instance, a wife may need a kidney and her husband may want to donate, but they have a blood type incompatibility that makes donation impossible. Now they can do an exchange. And we've done them. Now we are working on a three-way exchange.

Because the National Organ Transplant Act forbids the creation of binding contracts for organ transplant, steps in the procedure had to be performed roughly simultaneously. Two pairs of patients means four operating rooms and four surgical teams acting in concert with each other. Hospitals and professionals in the transplant community felt that the practical burden of three pairwise exchanges would be too large.[18] While the original theoretical work discovered that an "efficient frontier" would be reached with exchanges between three pairs of otherwise incompatible donors, it was determined that the goals of the program would not be sacrificed by limiting exchanges to pairs of incompatible donors. Recently, however, a six party (three pairs) kidney exchange was performed in April 2008.[19][20]


Roth is the author of numerous scholarly articles, books and other publications. A selection:

  • 1979. Axiomatic Models of Bargaining, Lecture Notes in Economics and Mathematical Systems. Springer Verlag.
  • 1985. Game-Theoretic Models of Bargaining, (editor)Cambridge University Press, 1985.
  • 1987. Laboratory Experimentation in Economics: Six Points of View. (editor) Cambridge University Press. (Chinese translation, 2008)
  • 1988. The Shapley Value: Essays in Honor of Lloyd S. Shapley. (editor) Cambridge University Press.
  • 1990. Two-Sided Matching: A Study in Game-Theoretic Modeling and Analysis. With M. Sotomayor. Cambridge University Press.
  • 1995. Handbook of Experimental Economics. Edited with J.H. Kagel. Princeton University Press.
  • 2001. Game Theory in the Tradition of Bob Wilson. Edited with Bengt Holmstrom and Paul Milgrom.

Journal articles

Roth has published over 70 articles in peer reviewed journals. According to Scopus, the most widely cited have been:

  • ——— (1985). "The College Admissions Problem is not Equivalent to the Marriage Problem". Journal of Economic Theory 36 (2): 277–288. doi:10.1016/0022-0531(85)90106-1.  
  • ——— (1991). "A Natural Experiment in the Organization of Entry-Level Labor Markets: Regional Markets for New Physicians and Surgeons in the United Kingdom". American Economic Review 81 (3): 415–440. doi:10.2307/2006511.  
  • Erev, I.; ——— (1998). "Predicting How People Play Games: Reinforcement Learning in Experimental Games with Unique, Mixed Strategy Equilibria". American Economic Review 88 (4): 848–881. doi:10.2307/117009.  
  • Slonim, R.; ——— (1998). "Learning in High Stakes Ultimatum Games: An Experiment in the Slovak Republic". Econometrica 66 (3): 569–596. doi:10.2307/2998575.  
  • ———; Peranson, E. (1999). "The Redesign of the Matching Market for American Physicians: Some Engineering Aspects of Economic Design". American Economic Review 89 (4): 748–780. doi:10.2307/117158.  
  • ———; Ockenfels, A. (2002). "Last-minute bidding and the rules for ending second-price auctions: Evidence from eBay and Amazon auctions on the internet". American Economic Review 92 (4): 1093–1103. doi:10.1257/00028280260344632.  
  • ———; Sönmez, T.; Ünver, M. U. (2004). "Kidney exchange". Quarterly Journal of Economics 119 (2): 457–488. doi:10.1162/0033553041382157.  

See also


  1. ^ a b Alvin E. Roth Biography Faculty and Research. Accessed on June 6, 2008
  2. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation R Fellows Page. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Accessed on July 6, 2008
  3. ^ Members of the Academy of Arts & Sciences (October 2007). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Accessed on July 6, 2008
  4. ^ Fellows of the Econometric Society (March 2008). Econometric Society. Accessed on July 6, 2008
  5. ^ Alvin E. Roth. National Bureau of Economic Research. Accessed on July 6, 2008
  6. ^ D. Gale and L. S. Shapley: "College Admissions and the Stability of Marriage", American Mathematical Monthly 69, 9-14, 1962.
  7. ^ Alvin E. Roth (1984). "The Evolution of the Labor Market for Medical Interns and Residents: A Case Study in Game Theory". In: Journal of Political Economy 92: 991-1016. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  8. ^ Roth, Alvin E. Deferred Acceptance Algorithms: History, Theory, Practice, and Open Questions, International Journal of Game Theory, Special Issue in Honor of David Gale on his 85th birthday, 36, March, 2008, 537-569.
  9. ^ Sara Robinson. "Tweaking the Math to Make Happier Medical Marriages". in: New York Times. August 24, 2004.
  10. ^ Alvin E. Roth (2005). "The New York City High School Match". With Atila Abdulkadiroglu and Parag A. Pathak. in: American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings 95. (2): 364-367.
  11. ^ Herszenhornh, David M. (2003-10-03). "Revised Admission for High Schools". New York Times: pp. New York/Region. Retrieved 2008-06-27.  
  12. ^ Alvin E. Roth. (2007). "Robert Rosenthal Memorial Lecture 2007: What Have we Learned from Market Design?" Flash, Web Video. Boston: Boston University.
  13. ^ Roth noted that the West Zone Parents Group at Yahoo Groups among others devoted considerable time and effort to estimating capacity for schools in the area and disseminated recommendations on the basis of those estimates.
  14. ^ Gareth Cook (2003). "School assignment flaws detailed: Two economists study problem, offer relief" In: Boston Globe 2003-9-12.
  15. ^ Dubner, Stephen; Levitt, Steven (2006-07-09). "Flesh Trade". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2008-07-05.  
  16. ^ Wessel, David (2004-06-17). "Renal Donors Swap Recipients If Blood Types Don't Match; Cheating on Priority Lists". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-06-23.  
  17. ^ "Kidney Exchange: A Life-Saving Application of Matching Theory". Discoveries. National Science Foundation. Retrieved 2008-07-05.  
  18. ^ Roth, Alvin E.; Sönmez, Tayfun Ünver, Unku (2005). "Pairwise kidney exchange" (PDF). Journal of Economic Theory 125: 153. doi:10.1016/j.jet.2005.04.004. Retrieved 2008-07-05.  
  19. ^ "'Six-way' kidney transplant first". BBC News. 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-06-01.  
  20. ^ Harford, Tim (2008-04-10). "6-way kidney exchange: Al Roth should be proud". The Undercover Economist blog. Financial Times. Retrieved 2008-06-18.  

External links


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