Research & Writings

(i) Unpublished / forthcoming / recent papers; (ii) Top Ten research papers; (iii) Older published papers; (iv) Inactive working papers; (v) Game-Changer videos, speeches, op-eds, and other writings.

Unpublished / forthcoming / recent

Economic Epidemiology in the wake of Covid-19, accepted at Covid Economics (Sept 5, 2020). Click for abstract.

Infectious diseases, ideas, new products, and other “infectants” spread in epidemic fashion through social contact. The Covid-19 pandemic, the proliferation of “fake news,” and the rise of antibiotic resistance have thrust economic epidemiology into the forefront of public-policy debate and re-invigorated the field. Focusing for concreteness on disease-causing pathogens, this paper provides a taxonomy of economic-epidemic models, emphasizing both the biology / immunology of the disease and the economics of the social context. An \textit{economic epidemic} is one whose diffusion through the agent population is generated by agents’ endogenous behavior. I highlight properties of the Nash-equilibrium epidemic trajectory and discuss ways in which public-health authorities can change the game for the better, (i) by imposing restrictions on agent activity to reduce the harm done during a viral outbreak and (ii) by enabling diagnostic-informed interventions to slow or even reverse the rise of antibiotic resistance.

The Political Economy of a Viral Epidemic with Troy Day (mathematical biologist). Click for abstract.

People’s incentives during an infectious disease outbreak influence their behavior, and this behavior can impact how the outbreak unfolds. Early on during an outbreak, people are at little personal risk of infection and hence may be unwilling to change their lifestyle to slow the spread of disease. But as the number of cases mount, people may then voluntarily take extreme measures to limit their exposure to infected individuals. Government leaders also respond to the welfare and changing desires of their constituents, through public health policies that themselves shape the course of the epidemic and its ultimate health and economic repercussions. Here, using a coupled epidemiological-economic model, we show that the incentives of individuals and government leaders during an outbreak, and the consequences that ensue when these incentives are acted upon, are qualitatively different depending on how the disease is transmitted. If disease transmission occurs by asymptomatic carriers, then government leaders will be incentivized to impose stay-at-home orders earlier and for longer than individuals would like. On the other hand, if disease transmission occurs by symptomatic infections, then individuals are incentivized to stay at home earlier and for longer than government leaders would like. Nevertheless, in both cases, government intervention ultimately benefits all individuals despite such interventions going against individuals’ incentives over some period of time.

Strategic Social Distancing with Coordination Motives with Yangbo Song. Click for abstract.

Not finalized.

“Nash SIR: An Economic-Epidemiological Model of Strategic Behavior During a Viral Epidemic”, Covid Economics (“vetted” working paper series), issue 16, 115-134, 2020. Click for abstract.

This paper develops a Nash-equilibrium extension of the classic SIR model of infectious-disease epidemiology (“Nash SIR”), endogenizing people’s decisions whether to engage in economic activity during a viral epidemic and allowing for complementarity in social-economic activity. An equilibrium epidemic is one in which Nash equilibrium behavior during the epidemic generates the epidemic. There may be multiple equilibrium epidemics, in which case the epidemic trajectory can be shaped through the coordination of expectations, in addition to other sorts of interventions such as stay-at-home orders and accelerated vaccine development. An algorithm is provided to compute all equilibrium epidemics.

“Social Networks and the Market for News” with Rachel Kranton. Working-paper version with additional extensions allowing for asymmetric consumers, arbitrary directed graph, and richer revenue model (pay for views and pay for actions). Click for abstract.

This paper introduces a simple market model for news: consumers benefit from and want to share true news and producers incur costs to produce true news. News veracity is endogenous, shaped by the social network. When producer revenues derive from consumers’ viewing stories (e.g., advertising revenue), veracity is low in dense networks, since even false news spreads widely. With revenues from consumers’ actions based on stories (e.g, voting), veracity is higher in dense networks, since consumers make better inferences about news truth. Adding third-party misinformation can increase equilibrium true-news production as consumers respond by being more judicious when sharing stories.

“Viral Social Learning with Yangbo Song. Click for abstract.

An innovation (e.g., new product or idea) spreads like a virus, transmitted by those who have previously adopted it. We characterize equilibrium adoption dynamics and the resulting lifecycle of virally-spread innovations. Herding on adoption can occur but only early in the innovation lifecycle, and all virally-spread innovations eventually become obsolescent. A producer capable of advertising directly to consumers finds it optimal to wait and allow awareness to grow virally initially after launch. When most innovations would otherwise be high (low) quality absent any viral social learning, running an optimal-length viral campaign decreases (increases) equilibrium investment in innovation quality.

“Learning Through the Grapevine: The Impact of Noise and the Breadth and Depth of Social Networks with Matthew Jackson and Suraj Malladi. Click for abstract.

We examine how well people learn when information is noisily relayed from person to person; and we study how communication platforms can improve learning without censoring or fact-checking messages. We analyze learning as a function of social network depth (how many times information is relayed) and breadth (the number of relay chains accessed). Noise builds up as depth increases, so learning requires greater breadth. In the presence of mutations (deliberate or random) and transmission failures of messages, we characterize sharp thresholds for breadths above which receivers learn fully and below which they learn nothing. When there is uncertainty about mutation rates, optimizing learning requires either capping depth, or if that is not possible, limiting breadth by capping the number of people to whom someone can forward a message. Limiting breadth cuts the number of messages received but also decreases the fraction originating further from the receiver, and so can increase the signal to noise ratio. Finally, we extend our model to study learning from message survival: e.g., people are more likely to pass messages with one conclusion than another. We find that as depth grows, all learning comes from either the total number of messages received or from the content of received messages, but the learner does not need to pay attention to both.

Incentivizing wealthy nations to participate in COVID-19 vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX): A game theory approach, with Kaci Kennedy McDade (Duke Center for Policy Impact in Global Health), Osondu Ogbuoji (CPIGH), Matthew Johnson (Duke Human Vaccine Institute), Siddharth Dixit (CPIGH), and Gavin Yamey (CPIGH)

“Multi-purposing environmental polio surveillance for AMR” with Christine Årdal, Astrid Wester, and
Sigrun Møgedal.

“Resistance diagnostics as a public health tool to combat antibiotic resistance: A model-based evaluation”, lead author with collaborators from Sam Brown Lab at Georgia Tech Biological Sciences and Marc Lipsitch Lab at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, PLoS Biology 17, no. 5 (2019). My contribution (as explained in bioRxiv version): “DM conceived the project. DM and SB developed the mathematical models. DM analyzed the models. DM and SB wrote the manuscript. DM wrote SI.A-E.”Click for abstract.

Rapid point-of-care resistance diagnostics (POC-RD) are thought to be a key tool in the fight against antibiotic resistance. By tailoring drug choice to infection genotype, doctors can improve treatment efficacy while limiting costs of inappropriate antibiotic prescription. Here we combine epidemiological theory and data to assess the potential of POC-RD innovations in a public health context, as a means to limit or even reverse selection for antibiotic resistance. POC-RD can be used to impose a non-biological fitness cost on resistant strains, by triggering targeted interventions that reduce their opportunities for transmission. We assess this diagnostic-imposed fitness cost in the context of a spectrum of bacterial population biologies and POC-RD conditional strategies, and find that the expected impact varies from selection against resistance for obligate pathogens to marginal public health improvements for opportunistic pathogens with high ‘bystander’ antibiotic exposure during asymptomatic carriage (e.g. the pneumococcus). We close by generalizing the notion of RD-informed strategies to incorporate both POC and carriage surveillance information, and illustrate that coupling transmission control interventions to the discovery of resistant strains in carriage can potentially select against resistance in a broad range of opportunistic pathogens.

Top Ten

My ten best papers, in my own opinion. Listed in reverse chronological order.

“Nash SIR: An Economic-Epidemiological Model of Strategic Behavior During a Viral Epidemic”, Covid Economics (“vetted” working paper series), issue 16, 115-134, 2020. Click for abstract.

This paper develops a Nash-equilibrium extension of the classic SIR model of infectious-disease epidemiology (“Nash SIR”), endogenizing people’s decisions whether to engage in economic activity during a viral epidemic and allowing for complementarity in social-economic activity. An equilibrium epidemic is one in which Nash equilibrium behavior during the epidemic generates the epidemic. There may be multiple equilibrium epidemics, in which case the epidemic trajectory can be shaped through the coordination of expectations, in addition to other sorts of interventions such as stay-at-home orders and accelerated vaccine development. An algorithm is provided to compute all equilibrium epidemics.

“Social Networks and the Market for News” with Rachel Kranton, working paper. Click for abstract.

This paper introduces a simple market model for news: consumers benefit from and want to share true news and producers incur costs to produce true news. News veracity is endogenous, shaped by the social network. When producer revenues derive from consumers’ viewing stories (e.g., advertising revenue), veracity is low in dense networks, since even false news spreads widely. With revenues from consumers’ actions based on stories (e.g, voting), veracity is higher in dense networks, since consumers make better inferences about news truth. Adding third-party misinformation can increase equilibrium true-news production as consumers respond by being more judicious when sharing stories.

“Viral Social Learning with Yangbo Song, working paper. Click for abstract.

An innovation (e.g., new product or idea) spreads like a virus, transmitted by those who have previously adopted it. We characterize equilibrium adoption dynamics and the resulting lifecycle of virally-spread innovations. Herding on adoption can occur but only early in the innovation lifecycle, and all virally-spread innovations eventually become obsolescent. A producer capable of advertising directly to consumers finds it optimal to wait and allow awareness to grow virally initially after launch. When most innovations would otherwise be high (low) quality absent any viral social learning, running an optimal-length viral campaign decreases (increases) equilibrium investment in innovation quality.

“Resistance diagnostics as a public health tool to combat antibiotic resistance: A model-based evaluation”, lead author with collaborators from Sam Brown Lab at Georgia Tech Biological Sciences and Marc Lipsitch Lab at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, PLoS Biology 17, no. 5 (2019). Click for abstract.

Rapid point-of-care resistance diagnostics (POC-RD) are thought to be a key tool in the fight against antibiotic resistance. By tailoring drug choice to infection genotype, doctors can improve treatment efficacy while limiting costs of inappropriate antibiotic prescription. Here we combine epidemiological theory and data to assess the potential of POC-RD innovations in a public health context, as a means to limit or even reverse selection for antibiotic resistance. POC-RD can be used to impose a non-biological fitness cost on resistant strains, by triggering targeted interventions that reduce their opportunities for transmission. We assess this diagnostic-imposed fitness cost in the context of a spectrum of bacterial population biologies and POC-RD conditional strategies, and find that the expected impact varies from selection against resistance for obligate pathogens to marginal public health improvements for opportunistic pathogens with high ‘bystander’ antibiotic exposure during asymptomatic carriage (e.g. the pneumococcus). We close by generalizing the notion of RD-informed strategies to incorporate both POC and carriage surveillance information, and illustrate that coupling transmission control interventions to the discovery of resistant strains in carriage can potentially select against resistance in a broad range of opportunistic pathogens.

“Resistance Diagnosis and the Changing Epidemiology of Antibiotic Resistance,” Antimicrobial Therapeutics Reviews (Annals of New York Academy of Sciences), 1388(1), 5-17, January 2017, lead article. Click for abstract.

Abstract: Widespread adoption of point-of-care resistance diagnostics (POCRD) reduces ineffective antibiotic use but could increase overall antibiotic use. Indeed, in the context of a standard susceptible-infected epidemiological model with a single antibiotic, POCRD accelerates the rise of resistance in the disease-causing bacterial population. When multiple antibiotics are available, however, POCRD may slow the rise of resistance even as more patients receive antibiotic treatment, belying the conventional wisdom that antibiotics are “exhaustible resources” whose increased use necessarily promotes the rise of resistance.

“Performance and Turnover in a Stochastic Partnership”. (This version: July 2010. First submitted version: June 2009.) October 2010 talk (.pdfAmerican Economic Journal: Microeconomics, November 2011, 107-42. Click for abstract.

Abstract: Suppose that players in a stochastic partnership have the option to quit and re-match anonymously. If stage-game payoffs are subject to a persistent initial shock, the (unique) social welfare-maximizing equilibrium induces a “dating” process in which all partners enjoy the full potential equilibrium gains from each match. By contrast, maximizing social welfare in non-stochastic repeated games with re-matching requires that players burn money or otherwise fail to realize all potential equilibrium gains. Comparative statics on welfare and turnover are also provided, consistent with documented patterns of “survivorship bias” and “honeymoon.”

“Mechanism Choice and Strategic Bidding in Divisible Good Auctions: An Empirical Analysis of the Turkish Treasury Auction Market” with Ali Hortacsu. Journal of Political Economy, October 2010, 833-865 (lead article). Click for abstract.

Abstract: We propose an estimation method to bound bidders’ marginal valuations in discriminatory auctions using individual bid-level data, and apply the method to data from the Turkish Treasury auction market. Using estimated bounds on marginal values, we compute an upper bound on the inefficiency of realized allocations as well as bounds on how much additional revenue could have been realized in a counterfactual uniform price or Vickrey auction. We conclude that switching from a discriminatory auction to a uniform price or Vickrey auction would not significantly increase revenue. Moreover, such a switch would increase bidder expected surplus by at most 0.02%.

“Credible Sales Mechanisms and Intermediaries” with Michael Schwarz. American Economic Review, March 2007, 97(1), 260-276. Web Appendix that accompanies the paper. (A previous version of this paper circulated under the title “Bargaining with and without Intermediaries”.) Click for discussion.

The auction paradigm has dominated the academic analysis of real-world sales mechanisms for over twenty years, despite the fact that buyers and sellers in many transactions conspicuously lack the ability to commit to an orderly sales process. In this paper, we consider a seller who lacks access to an institution to credibly close a sale, i.e. the seller can not resist “haggling” with buyers. A sealed-bid auction arises endogenously when the cost is haggling is very high and an open ascending-price auction arises when this cost is very low, but the seller can suffer significant losses due to delay in the intermediate case. This creates a niche for intermediaries who can help the seller commit to hard rules. See “Who Pays When Auction Rules are Bent?” (also with Schwarz) for work that builds on this paper.

“Monotone Equilibrium in Multi-Unit Auctions”Review of Economic Studies, October 2006, 73(4), pp 1039 – 1056. Click for discussion.

Job-market paper (in 2001). Powerful tools from lattice theory vastly simplify the analysis of multi-unit auctions (e.g. procurement and stock IPOs). In particular, when bidders are risk-neutral with independent types, I show that every mixed-strategy equilibrium is “equivalent” to a monotone pure strategy equilibrium. See “On the Failure of Monotonicity in Uniform-Price Auctions” for related work.

“Isotone Equilibrium in Games of Incomplete Information”Econometrica, August 2003, 71(4), pp 1191-1214. Click for discussion.

Some results from the theory of strategic complementarity can still apply when strategic complementarity fails in games having multi-dimensional actions and multi-dimensional private information. For example, the paper sheds light on oligopolistic competition among firms that compete on several dimensions, allowing one to address questions such as, “Should my firm raise or lower its price when others invest more heavily in research?” See “Monotone Equilibrium in Multi-Unit Auctions” for work that builds on this paper.

Older published

“Empirical Work on Auctions of Multiple Objects” with Ali Hortacsu, Journal of Economic Literature, 56, March 2018, 157-184. Click for abstract.

Abstract: Abundant data has led to new opportunities for empirical auctions research in recent years, with much of the newest work on auctions of multiple objects, including: (i) auctions of ranked objects (such as sponsored-search ads), (ii) auctions of identical objects (such as Treasury bonds), and (iii) auctions of dissimilar objects (such as FCC spectrum licenses). This paper surveys recent developments in the empirical analysis of such auctions.

“Supply, Demand, and Uncertainty: Implications for Prelisting Conservation Policy” with Christopher Galik, Ecological Economics, 137, July 2017, 91-98. Click for abstract.

Abstract: The Endangered Species Act (ESA) faces a shortage of incentives to motivate the scale of conservation activities necessary to address and reverse the decline of at-risk species. A recent policy proposal attempts to change this by allowing landowners to generate credits for voluntary prelisting conservation activities. We explore the proposed policy from the perspective of potential participants. We find that uncertainty present in species listing processes complicates the decision to undertake conservation activities, leading to less conservation being supplied than when a listing decision is certain, while also delaying implementation until late in the listing determination process. Incentives created by the prelisting policy may likewise push species status closer to a listing threshold and thus exacerbate uncertainty in the listing process.

“Analysis of the potential for point-of-care test to enable individualised treatment of infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant and susceptible strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae: a modelling study” with Katy Turner (lead author), Hannah Christensen, Elisabeth Adams, Helen Fifer (Public Health England), Anthony McDonnell (O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance), and Neil Woodford (Public Health England), BMJ Open, July 2017, 7:e015447. Click for abstract.

Abstract: Objective. To create a mathematical model to investigate the treatment impact and economic implications of introducing an antimicrobial resistance point-of-care test (AMR POCT) for gonorrhoea as a way of extending the life of current last-line treatments. Conclusions. The introduction of AMR POCT could allow clinicians to discern between the majority of gonorrhoea-positive patients with strains that could be treated with older, previously abandoned first-line treatments, and those requiring our current last-line dual therapy. Such tests could extend the useful life of dual ceftriaxone and azithromycin therapy, thus pushing back the time when gonorrhoea may become untreatable.

“Resistance Diagnosis and the Changing Economics of Antibiotic Discovery,” Antimicrobial Therapeutics Reviews (Annals of New York Academy of Sciences), 1388(1), January 2017, 18-25. Click for abstract.

Abstract: Point-of-care diagnostics that can determine an infection’s antibiotic sensitivity increase the profitability of new antibiotics that enjoy patent protection, even when such diagnostics reduce the quantity of antibiotics sold. Advances in the science and technology underpinning rapid resistance diagnostics can therefore be expected to spur efforts to discover and develop new antibiotics, especially those with a narrow spectrum of activity that would otherwise fail to find a market.

“Resistance Diagnosis and the Changing Epidemiology of Antibiotic Resistance,” Antimicrobial Therapeutics Reviews (Annals of New York Academy of Sciences), 1388(1), 5-17, January 2017, lead article. Click for abstract.

Abstract: Widespread adoption of point-of-care resistance diagnostics (POCRD) reduces ineffective antibiotic use but could increase overall antibiotic use. Indeed, in the context of a standard susceptible-infected epidemiological model with a single antibiotic, POCRD accelerates the rise of resistance in the disease-causing bacterial population. When multiple antibiotics are available, however, POCRD may slow the rise of resistance even as more patients receive antibiotic treatment, belying the conventional wisdom that antibiotics are “exhaustible resources” whose increased use necessarily promotes the rise of resistance.

“On the Benefits of Dynamic Bidding when Participation is Costly”Journal of Economic Theory, May 2015, 959-972. (Previous version titled “Dynamic bidding.”) Click for abstract.

Abstract: Consider a second-price auction with costly bidding in which bidders with i.i.d. private values have multiple opportunities to bid. If bids are observable, the resulting dynamic-bidding game generates greater expected total welfare than if bids were sealed, for any given reserve price. Making early bids observable allows high-value bidders to signal their strength and deter others from entering the auction. Nonetheless, as long as the seller can commit to a reserve price, expected revenue is higher when bids are observable than when they are sealed.

“Identification of First-Price Auction Models with Non-Separable Unobserved Heterogeneity” with Yingyao Hu and Matthew Shum, Journal of Econometrics, June 2013, 186-193. Click for abstract.

Abstract: We propose a novel methodology for identification of first-price auctions, when bidders’ private valuations are independent conditional on one-dimensional unobserved heterogeneity. We extend the existing literature (Li and Vuong (1998), Krasnokutskaya (2011)) by allowing the unobserved heterogeneity to be nonseparable from bidders’ valuations. Our central identifying assumption is that the distribution of bidder values is increasing in the state. When the state-space is finite, such monotonicity implies the completeness conditions needed for identification. When the state-space is continuous, we also provide some new sufficient conditions which ensure that completeness holds. Further, we extend our approach to the conditionally independent private values model of Li, Perrigne, and Vuong (2000), as well as to unobserved heterogeneity settings in which the implicit reserve price or the cost of bidding varies across auctions.

“Strategic Ignorance in the Second-Price Auction”. (This version: September 2011. April 2013 MilgromFest talk (.pdf) Economics Letters, January 2012, 83-85. Click for abstract.

Abstract: Suppose bidders may publicly choose not to learn their values prior to a second-price auction with costly bidding. All equilibria with truthful bidding exhibit bidder ignorance when bidders are sufficiently few. Ignorance considerations also affect the optimal reserve price.

“Performance and Turnover in a Stochastic Partnership”. (This version: July 2010. First submitted version: June 2009.) October 2010 talk (.pdfAmerican Economic Journal: Microeconomics, November 2011, 107-42. Click for abstract.

Abstract: Suppose that players in a stochastic partnership have the option to quit and re-match anonymously. If stage-game payoffs are subject to a persistent initial shock, the (unique) social welfare-maximizing equilibrium induces a “dating” process in which all partners enjoy the full potential equilibrium gains from each match. By contrast, maximizing social welfare in non-stochastic repeated games with re-matching requires that players burn money or otherwise fail to realize all potential equilibrium gains. Comparative statics on welfare and turnover are also provided, consistent with documented patterns of “survivorship bias” and “honeymoon.”

“Carbon Allowance Auction Design: An Assessment of Options for the U.S.” with Giuseppe Lopomo, Leslie Marx, and Brian Murray. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Winter 2011, 25-43. Click for abstract.

Abstract: Carbon allowance auctions are a component of existing and proposed regional cap-and-trade programs in the U.S. and are also included in recent bills in the U.S. Congress that would establish a national cap-and-trade program in the U.S. to regulate greenhouse gases (“carbon”).  We discuss and evaluate the two leading candidates for the auction format for carbon allowance auctions: a uniform-price sealed-bid auction and an ascending-bid dynamic auction, either of which could be augmented with a “price collar” to ensure that the price of allowances is neither too high nor too low.  We identify the primary trade-offs between these auction formats as applied to carbon allowance auctions and suggest auction design choices that address potential concerns about efficiency losses from collusion and other factors.  We conclude that a uniform-price sealed-bid auction is more appropriate for the sale of carbon allowances than the other leading choices, in part because it offers increased robustness to collusion without significant sacrifice in terms of price discovery.

“Mechanism Choice and Strategic Bidding in Divisible Good Auctions: An Empirical Analysis of the Turkish Treasury Auction Market” with Ali Hortacsu. Journal of Political Economy, October 2010, 833-865 (lead article). Click for abstract.

Abstract: We propose an estimation method to bound bidders’ marginal valuations in discriminatory auctions using individual bid-level data, and apply the method to data from the Turkish Treasury auction market. Using estimated bounds on marginal values, we compute an upper bound on the inefficiency of realized allocations as well as bounds on how much additional revenue could have been realized in a counterfactual uniform price or Vickrey auction. We conclude that switching from a discriminatory auction to a uniform price or Vickrey auction would not significantly increase revenue. Moreover, such a switch would increase bidder expected surplus by at most 0.02%.

“Partial Identification and Testable Restrictions in Multi-Unit Auctions”Journal of Econometrics, September 2008, 74-85. Spreadsheets with computations verifying the computations in the main Example. Last revision: June 2008. A previous working-paper version has additional results. Click for discussion.

Unlike in single-object auctions, bidder values are not point-identified when multiple identical objects are sold. This paper characterizes the set of value distributions that can generate any given bid distribution in equilibrium, provides tight bounds on inferred bidder values, and allows one to test the joint assumption of non-increasing marginal values and equilibrium bidding. For work that builds on this paper, see “Mechanism Choice and Strategic Bidding in Divisible Good Auctions: An Empirical Analysis of the Turkish Treasury Auction Market” with Ali Hortacsu and “Bounding Best Response Violations in Discriminatory Auctions with Private Values” (currently inactive) and “Bounding Revenue Comparisons across Multi-Unit Auction Formats under epsilon-Best Response”, each with James Chapman and Harry Paarsch.

“On the Failure of Monotonicity in Uniform-Price Auctions”Journal of Economic Theory, November 2007, 137, 729-732. Click for abstract.

Equilibria of the uniform-price auction be may non-monotone when (i) bidders are risk-neutral with affiliated private values or (ii) bidders are risk-averse with independent private values.

“Who Pays When Auction Rules are Bent?” with Michael Schwarz. International Journal of Industrial Organization, October 2007, 25(5), 1144-1157. Click for discussion.

In many negotiations, rules are soft in the sense that the seller and/or buyers may break them at some cost. All such costs (even those paid by buyers) are ultimately passed through to the seller in equilibrium. Examples include hiring shill (fake) bidders and trying to learn others’ bids before making one’s own.

“Uniqueness in Symmetric First-Price Auctions with Affiliation”Journal of Economic Theory, September 2007, 136, 144-166. Click for discussion.

The first uniqueness result when there are more than two bidders with affiliated private information. Uniqueness proven among class of equilibria in monotone pure strategies (without assuming differentiability of player strategies). See “Monotonicity in Asymmetric First-Price Auctions with Affiliation” for a companion paper.

“Perverse Incentives in the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit” with Michael Schwarz, Inquiry, Summer 2007, 44(2), 157-166. Featured in NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health, Spring 2006, “Incentives in the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit”. Click for discussion.

Identifies and explores incentives that may shape the future of Medicare Part D.

“Bounding Revenue Comparisons across Multi-Unit Auction Formats under epsilon-Best Response” with James Chapman and Harry Paarsch, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, May 2007, 97(2), 455-458. Click for discussion.

We argue that the Bank of Canada would gain little were it to run its Receiver-General auctions using a Vickrey format rather than the current discriminatory format.

“Adjustable Supply in Uniform Price Auctions: Non-Commitment as a Strategic Tool”Economics Letters, April 2007, 95(1) 48-53. (See a working-paper version for results in a somewhat more general model.) Previous versions circulated under names such as “Adjustable Supply and Collusive-Seeming Equilibria in Uniform Price Auctions”. First draft: Fall 1998. Click for discussion.

Waiting until after the bidding to decide how much to sell has strategic advantages.

“Credible Sales Mechanisms and Intermediaries” with Michael Schwarz. American Economic Review, March 2007, 97(1), 260-276. Web Appendix that accompanies the paper. (A previous version of this paper circulated under the title “Bargaining with and without Intermediaries”.) Click for discussion.

The auction paradigm has dominated the academic analysis of real-world sales mechanisms for over twenty years, despite the fact that buyers and sellers in many transactions conspicuously lack the ability to commit to an orderly sales process. In this paper, we consider a seller who lacks access to an institution to credibly close a sale, i.e. the seller can not resist “haggling” with buyers. A sealed-bid auction arises endogenously when the cost is haggling is very high and an open ascending-price auction arises when this cost is very low, but the seller can suffer significant losses due to delay in the intermediate case. This creates a niche for intermediaries who can help the seller commit to hard rules. See “Who Pays When Auction Rules are Bent?” (also with Schwarz) for work that builds on this paper.

“Monotonicity in Asymmetric First-Price Auctions with Affiliation”International Journal of Game Theory, February 2007, 35(3), pp 427-453. Click for discussion.

Every bidder must bid more given more favorable private information (in any mixed strategy equilibrium). Previously, this was only known for the two-bidder case or for the independent private values case. See “Uniqueness in Symmetric First-Price Auctions with Affiliation” for a companion paper.

“Monotone Equilibrium in Multi-Unit Auctions”Review of Economic Studies, October 2006, 73(4), pp 1039 – 1056. Click for discussion.

Job-market paper (in 2001). Powerful tools from lattice theory vastly simplify the analysis of multi-unit auctions (e.g. procurement and stock IPOs). In particular, when bidders are risk-neutral with independent types, I show that every mixed-strategy equilibrium is “equivalent” to a monotone pure strategy equilibrium. See “On the Failure of Monotonicity in Uniform-Price Auctions” for related work.

“Isotone Equilibrium in Games of Incomplete Information”Econometrica, August 2003, 71(4), pp 1191-1214. Click for discussion.

Some results from the theory of strategic complementarity can still apply when strategic complementarity fails in games having multi-dimensional actions and multi-dimensional private information. For example, the paper sheds light on oligopolistic competition among firms that compete on several dimensions, allowing one to address questions such as, “Should my firm raise or lower its price when others invest more heavily in research?” See “Monotone Equilibrium in Multi-Unit Auctions” for work that builds on this paper.

“Speeding Up the Ascending-Price Auction with Yuzo Fujishima and Yoav Shoham, Proceedings, Int. Journal Conf. in Artificial Intelligence, 1999, pp 554-559. Click for discussion.

How to make internet auctions robust to network communication breakdown.

Inactive working papers

“Secrecy in the First-Price Auction”. (This version: January 2012. First version: May 2011.) April 2013 MilgromFest talk (.pdf). Working paper.Click for abstract.

Abstract: This paper endogenizes bidders’ beliefs about their competition in a symmetric first-price auction with independent private values, by allowing bidders to decide whether to participate publicly or secretly. When public participation is more costly, bidders only participate secretly in the unique equilibrium. By contrast, when secret participation is slightly more costly, all symmetric equilibria exhibit a mixture of secret and public participation. In this case, switching to a second-price format increases expected revenue and expected total welfare among all symmetric equilibria.

“Discounts for Qualified Buyers Only”, June 2011. Click for abstract.

The standard monopoly pricing problem is re-considered when the buyer can disclose his type (e.g. age, income, experience) at some cost. In the optimal sales mechanism with costly disclosure, the seller posts a “sticker price” and a schedule of “discounts” available only to disclosing buyers. Unambiguous welfare implications are available in the limiting case when the buyer’s type is fully informative: (i) The buyer is better off and the monopolist worse off when disclosure is more costly. (ii) When discounts are sufficiently rare, social welfare is strictly less than if the seller could not offer discounts.

“Smart Watershed Markets: The Case of the Central Platte Groundwater Exchange in Nebraska” (draft available on request)

Supplementary materials:

Game-Changer videos, speeches, op-eds, and other writings

Organized with some favorites at top, then thematically by application area.

CONVERSATION: Science for the People podcast, July 2014, a fun and wide-ranging conversation about what game theory is with host Rachelle Saunders–best introduction to me and “the art of game theory”.

OTHER: Game Theory for Young Minds. McAdams D (2017) “Game Theory and Cooperation: How Putting Others First Can Help Everyone”. Frontiers for Young Minds, first-ever article in the Mathematics category of this journal for young people.

SPEECH: “Taming Superbugs”, January 2015, keynote address at Duke Forward: Dallas on how we can avoid a “post-antibiotic future.” Extra material: slides; video clips: Why resistance is on the rise and antibiotics aren’t working anymore, How we can change the game to preserve antibiotics forever, What we each need to do to avoid post-antibiotic world.

SPEECH: “Changing the Game of Antibody Validation,” September 2016, keynote address at GBSI’s Workshop on Antibody Validation: Standards, Policies, and Practices, on how the scientific community can work together to address the “reproducibility crisis” in biomedical science [slides]

GAME-CHANGER VIDEO: “Saving the Wild Rhino”, February 2015, on how to save the wild rhino from extinction by, strangely, embracing the corruption of the Vietnamese government.

GAME-CHANGER VIDEO: “Instagram Commerce”, June 2014, a wild ride, covering everything from Instagram drug-dealers to why Facebook paid billions for mobile-message platform WhatsApp.

GAME-CHANGER VIDEO: “Drug-Seeking in the Emergency Department”, March 2014, on how hospitals can save lives — and help address the ongoing crisis of widespread prescription-drug misuse and abuse — by changing how they use ED patient-satisfaction scores.

GAME-CHANGER VIDEO: “A Better Best Buy”, September 2014, on how Best Buy can leverage customers’ physical presence in its stores to truly “kill” showrooming.

SPEECH: “Economic Theory as Game-Changer”, May 2014, what rationality really means in economics, plus Game-Changers in catching cartels and fighting eBay fraud.

OP-ED: “Turning the Tables on Terrorist Kidnappers” (published as “The Right Way to Pay Ransoms to Terrorists”), February 2015, New York Times.

OP-ED: “NFL Coaches Are Too Chicken for Their Own Good, February 2014, TIME.com.

On Antibiotic Resistance

SPEECH: “Taming Superbugs”, January 2015, keynote address at Duke Forward: Dallas on how we can avoid a “post-antibiotic future.” Extra material: slides; video clips: Why resistance is on the rise and antibiotics aren’t working anymore, How we can change the game to preserve antibiotics forever, What we each need to do to avoid post-antibiotic world.

OP-ED: “Soap’s Dirty Little Secret”, January 2014,Tampa Bay Times op-ed. (Also appeared in Raleigh News & Observer, Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, and several smaller papers.)

VIDEO: “Game Theory, Molecular Diagnosis, and the Cure for Antibiotic Resistance,” August 2013,15-minute video that points to a way to overcome the mortal threat posed by rising antibiotic resistance.

“CONVERSATION: Fuqua Faculty Conversation on Antibiotic Resistance,” August 2013, 60-minute conversation (with Manisha Bhattacharya and David Ridley) on how we can use new molecular diagnostic technologies to “change the game” and reverse antibiotic resistance.

On Health Care and Biomedicine

SPEECH: “Changing the Game of Antibody Validation,” September 2016, keynote address at GBSI’s Workshop on Antibody Validation: Standards, Policies, and Practices, on how the scientific community can work together to address the “reproducibility crisis” in biomedical science [slides]

SPEECH: “Changing the Game of Patient Experience: Insights from Game Theory,” November 2014, presentation to the Duke Fuqua Health Sector Advisory Board.

CONVERSATION: “Collaborating for Innovation: Can Public-Private Partnerships Change the Game,” November 2014, TEDMED Great Challenges Series, 60-minute expert panel.

On Farming and Food / Resource Systems

SPEECH: “The Future of Pest-Resistant Crops”, October 2014, slides and audio from Thomas C. Sorensen Seminar given at U. Nebraska Lincoln to a group of entomologists and plant scientists.

VIDEO: “The Central Platte Groundwater Exchange Program: Untapping Farmers’ Water Wealth”. In the Fall of 2014 while visiting the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NE DNR) to give a speech on the game theory of crop pests, I conceived the idea for a new type of water market, the first of its kind in the world linking groundwater and surface-water users in a single marketplace. After much coalition-building and work with NE DNR, the Central Platte Natural Resource District (CPNRD), the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, and the market-design consultancy NERA, this marketplace became a reality in 2016. This video, created in the months before the first market event, explains how the Central Platte Groundwater Exchange Program works and why farmers can benefit by participating. (While executed on a small scale in Nebraska, the concept of linking groundwater and surface-water could revolutionize how we use and conserve water at the watershed level. I welcome inquiries from water managers and regulators.)

On Counter-Terrorism

OP-ED: “Turning the Tables on Terrorist Kidnappers” (published as “The Right Way to Pay Ransoms to Terrorists”), February 2015, New York Times.

CONVERSATION: “Discussion of Alternatives to a Military Response to Islamic State”, BBC Radio 4 (The World Tonight), February 4, 2015. [Discussion begins around 33:00.]

On Politics

OP-ED: “Applying Game Theory to the Supreme Court Confirmation Fight” with Avinash Dixit, Harvard Business Review online, September 27, 2016 [SCOTUSblog mention]

OP-ED: “Could a top-two primary tame the Tea Party threat?”, The Monkey Cage (Washington Post blog), June 16, 2014.

OP-ED: “Changing the Debt-Ceiling Game”, New York Times, Tuesday October 15th 2013 [day before deal to avoid default], and related letter by Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA).

On Prescription-Drug Abuse

CONVERSATION: “Prescription Drug Overdose in North Carolina”, August 2014, appearance on WUNC State of Things with Project Lazarus co-founder Fred Brason and Carrboro police captain Chris Atack. [My appearance begins around 11:45]

GAME-CHANGER VIDEO: “Drug-Seeking in the Emergency Department”

OP-ED: “Making a Market for Overdose-Halting Drugs”, March 2014, New Jersey Star Ledger op-ed, March 25th, 2014. (Also appeared in Raleigh News & Observer.)

On Online Commerce

SPEECH: “Moving to Search: Game Theory and the Future of Marketing”, October 2014, presentation to Fuqua Marketing Club [in which I foretell the fall of Facebook]

GAME-CHANGER VIDEO: “A Better Best Buy”, September 2014, on how Best Buy can leverage customers’ physical presence in its stores to truly “kill” showrooming.

OP-ED: “Beating Amazon at Its Own Game”, July 2014, Pittsbugh Post-Gazette op-ed, July 4th, 2014.

GAME-CHANGER VIDEO: “Instagram Commerce”, June 2014, a wild ride, covering everything from Instagram drug-dealers to why Facebook paid billions for mobile-message platform WhatsApp.

On Market Design

OP-ED: “Making a Market for Overdose-Halting Drugs”, March 2014, New Jersey Star Ledger op-ed, March 25th, 2014. (Also appeared in Raleigh News & Observer.)

OTHER: Public Comment on Competitive Bidding Procedures, FCC Mobility Fund Phase I Auction (Proceeding 12-25), March 2012.

OTHER: “Mass. Casino Proposals a Possible Boon to Taxpayers” by Curt Nickisch, National Public Radio (WBUR News), December 2011.

OTHER: Testimony on behalf of New England Power Generators Association, in FERC Proceeding on New England’s Forward Capacity Market: ISO New England Inc. and New England Power Pool, FERC Docket Nos. ER10-787-000, EL10-50-000, and EL10-57-000 (consolidated), Summer 2010.

On Finance

“SPEECH: Confidence, Liquidity, and Financial Crises,” October 2014M presentation to Fuqua Finance Club

OTHER: “Revival Of ARS [Auction Rate Security] Market May Require Change” by Steven D. Jones, April 10th 2008, Dow Jones Newswire. [subscription required], April 2008

On Sports

OP-ED: “NFL Coaches Are Too Chicken for Their Own Good, February 2014, TIME.com, February 2nd 2014 [Super Bowl Sunday].

OTHER: “The Economics of Scalping Super Bowl Tickets” by Curt Nickisch, February 1st 2008, National Public Radio (Morning Edition).

On Media

OP-ED: “How Time Warner Can Win Its CBS Showdown”, August 2013, op-ed published in the Herald-Sun (Durham, NC).

CONVERSATION: “Why Time Warner Is Going to Lose Its CBS Showdown (Part 1),” on-air conversation with Scott Briggaman of WPTF (Raliegh, NC), August 2013.

CONVERSATION: “Why Time Warner Just Lost Its CBS Showdown (Part 2),” on-air conversation with Scott Briggaman of WPTF (Raliegh, NC), September 2013

CONVERSATION: “Why Aereo Could Spell the End of Broadcast Network Television (Part 3),” on-air conversation with Scott Briggaman of WPTF (Raliegh, NC), September 2013

OTHER: “The future of TV involves less ad money” by Jeff Tyler, Marketplace Morning Report (NPR), November 6th, 2013. I am quoted in this story. (The title is off a bit. My point was not about “ad money” but subscriber-fee revenue.)