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Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design
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Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,359 ratings  ·  228 reviews
A Nobel laureate reveals the often surprising rules that govern a vast array of activities — both mundane and life-changing — in which money may play little or no role.

If you’ve ever sought a job or hired someone, applied to college or guided your child into a good kindergarten, asked someone out on a date or been asked out, you’ve participated in a kind of market. Most o
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published October 24th 2014)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Athan Tolis
Jun 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ec-and-finance
There’s an apocryphal story about how Richard Nixon’s speechwriter quit. Back in the days before the autocue became portable and discreet, speechwriters would create enormous flashcards through which the politician would flip during his speech. The famous last speech allegedly climaxed as follows:

FLASHCARD: We can whip inflation, and I’m going to tell you how
FLASHCARD: We can find every American man and woman a job and I’m going to tell you how
FLASHCARD: We can win in Vietnam and I’m going to t
[Preface/Warning: This is a long-ago unfinished review, but, in light of Lloyd Shapley's recent death, I figure it's time for me to just let it fly free as is.]

And let the review begin:
Well guys, I think I've discovered a real up and comer in the field of behavioral economics. Wait— what's that? He already won the Nobel Prize in Economics ?!? Ok, so maybe I'm not the first to catch on to the brilliance of Alvin E. Roth (damn those Swedes for always being one step ahead of me).

However, t
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Alvin Roth won the Nobel Prize in economics. If you didn't know that, well, this book will make sure you do. Oh, he has also taught some brilliant PhD students, who has solved some very challenging market-matching problems. Yep, Mr. Roth is nothing short of smart, brilliant, .

As a writer, however, he falls short of explaining the intricacies of the market problems that he is trying to design. Anytime the narrative starts to become engaging, it will be disrupted by either a completely different t
Dick Hamilton
Sep 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I recognize I have no right to criticize a Nobel Prize winner, but while I liked the information presented in this book, I thought it was written at a level that was far too basic. I would have appreciated more examples and much more detail. This book provided basic level information but should have been either much shorter or much longer.
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english
The business model that makes Google one of the most valuable companies in the world involves running auctions for words typed into its search engine. Every time you search, you not only see the “organic” results of the search for the words you have typed; you also see advertisements. The ads that you can see, and the order in which they appear, depend on which advertisers win an auction conducted automatically by Google at the time of each search… the ad that appears in the first position on y
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I would include this in my list of books that explain how the world really works. Others on my list: Animal Spirits, The Great Escape. I feel like Factfullness would be another candidate and hopefully I’ll get to it soon.
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
If you doubted the author's bonafides as an academic and Nobel laureate then this book will destroy those doubts. Don't worry, the author will tell you how awesome he is, repeatedly.

Here, let me give you condensed version of what's in this book - "The markets aren't what you think. The markets are what I think it is. I also have the answers, look at all the magical stuff I've done!"

This book is the author's one big resume.

Look, he's a great guy and the ideas in this book aren't bad. But, I am a
Jun 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I’ll save you the trouble:

1) I built the Kidney Exchange
2) Markets break for various reasons.
3) I built the Kidney Exchange.
4) There are ways to fix broken markets.
5) I built the Kidney Exchange.
6) I have a Nobel Prize.
7) I built the Kidney Exchange.
Ami Iida
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's an excellent game theory book. ...more
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ross
Shelves: non-fiction
A book about matching, and not E type of matching. I continue to be amazed at the role economists have in explaining how things work, and making things work better, and not just the stock market. I don't think anyone really knows why the stock market does what it does. Maybe the talking heads need to justify their jobs. Dr. Roth was a pioneer in helping to develop an effective kidney matching program. He and his co harts became interested in the problem when there was not a match for ...more
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I've learned some new terms: matching market (market where money is not the only deciding factor, examples are job market, dating market, etc.), thick market (a market where more proposals are made to a small percentage of parties, for example, a desirable job gets more applicants, a beautiful woman gets more pursuers), etc.

That's it.

What attracted me to this book was the promise printed on the book cover, "(Roth reveals what factors make these markets work well - or badly- and) shows us all h
Niloufar Salehi
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was a great introductory to market design and the last chapter was very inspirational!
Victoria  Yang
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Logical, enticing, and compassionate - Professor Al Roth is meticulously kind in his approach to writing an accessible book on the various aspects of the topic of market design. Devoid of excessive discipline jargon that often turns someone without an economic background off, this book is understandable and serves well as an introductory course in understanding key topics such as incentives design, market transparency, market thickness, market safety and constraints etc. - all-important to under ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very interesting read on market design, something that every person has experience with and yet probably hasn't considered. I originally picked up this book after hearing about his work on redesigning a marketplace for kidney exchanges. For example, there are two times as many kidneys on the planet as there are people , and yet there are people who die of kidney failure. This is a market place in which money , or price, cannot play a role in the transaction. The book explains clearly the princ ...more
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book by a great author who is both a subject-matter expert and the creator of a lot of the things he's writing about, but somehow it manages to be boring and lacking in detail. The premise is that there are markets used to allocate resources, including markets where currency doesn't play a role, and that these markets need to be designed (or have evolved) in certain ways. Unfortunately every example given is so simplified as to really be more worthy of a mass-market magazine article, w ...more
Andresa Bastos
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great practical study.

Discovering the matching markets and how to use matching for efficiency.
Gabriela Saade
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This is a very interesting book by Nobel Laureate Alvin Roth about the role of markets in our everyday lives. It highlights the importance of market design in making the distribution of goods, services and even organs more efficient, and also the consequences of poor market design —that always leads us to black markets, corruption and desperate behaviors.

The author differentiates markets driven by money from markets driven by a matching process that sometimes goes unseen (like dorms assignment).
Wei Lu
Dec 19, 2018 rated it liked it
It's a book recommended by my game theory and mechanism design professor. It's an easy read but I find it less interesting after I've taken the game theory course, likely because of the overlap in theory. I wish it went into more depth in both theory and experiments. ...more
Jason Furman
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable, insightful and very accessible guide to the economics of "matchmaking" with very light explanations of the theories developed by Nobel-prize winning economist Alvin Roth and others but much more extensive discussions of his own personal experience in designing new mechanisms to match people in a variety of settings including kidney donations, medical residencies, and public school choice. Ultimately one of the books strongest arguments is that abstract theory can get you pretty far ...more
Jul 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Our life is determined by a set of complex rules and markets - both regular and potentially life-changing – and this book looks at the role of so-called matching markets and considers amongst other things how we might be able to utilise them to make better, more confident decisions.

Certainly this is a different book that starts really well (and finishes in a similar vein) but around the middle it begins to get a little more repetitive, less focussed and flabby. It gets you thinking about how ou
John  Mihelic
Nov 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Alvin Roth has a Nobel Prize. If you want to get snotty about it, I can google it and remember that it is not a true Noble but instead the “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel” which is close. It’s as much a science as those other squishy awards they give in things like literature or “Medicine”.

Roth’s Noble is important because I think it was the driving force behind the creation of this book. Someone must have noticed that Roth didn’t have a book for pop econ
Darien Carter
This is a painful read and is entirely too long. The author provides a particularly dry history of poorly-designed markets failing for the first half of the work, skimming over the issues with exploding offers in athletics, law school hires, and med school residencies while (deliberately, as you'll learn within the last two chapters) failing to discuss the intricacies of the real world implementations. Perhaps the only mildly interesting segment of this book comes in chapter 9 where he nerds out ...more
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
The book, which starts as a very interesting and fascinating narrative on economics of transactions where monetary exchange is unimportant (kidney exchange, school admissions, medical residency applications, etc.), quickly unravels into an aimless rambling and jumping back and forth on a whole slew of issues. By the end of the book it is hard tell what the author is trying to say. Add to that rather frequent self-glorification of a Nobel Prize winner, which further distracts from a pleasant read ...more
Adam Pollock
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Roth does a nice job of describing he types of problems that matchmaking can and has helped with. However, he intentionally does not give any of the actual math of how it works because such algorithms are the secret sauce that he gets paid to implement. Consequently, there was a WTF moment at the end of the book when I realized that after reading about all the applications for this technique, I would never get anything the least be tangible to understand its mechanics. This left the book basical ...more
David Schwan
Jul 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Kind of a sleeper of a book. The author explores basic concepts that apply to markets showing how some work and others failed. The summary is a bit bewildering in that the author clearly shows that markets are driven by rules yet he hedges his bets regarding the traditional laissez faire approach to economics.
Stephen Long
I'm not sure how to rate this. The subject is so important I feel driven to rate it well, but I didn't actually enjoy the book and it didn't relay much new to me that I found valuable, useful, applicable, or that I could use to create new insight. ...more
Kevin Anderson
Jun 18, 2015 marked it as never-finished
Put on hold because I was listening as an audio book but the content is too dense to absorb as an audiobook
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very interesting. We are all in the market for something and this book tells how markets evolve form markets for colleges/students to kidneys.
Abraham Lewik
Jan 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: intellectual
Focused entirely on the USA, the only take-away from this book is the title.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Roth is one of my favorite economist, if for no other reason than his work on organ matching has led directly to saving hundreds (on the low end) of lives. His book, however, is not one of my favorite pop-econ books. I think it is a great introduction to a field of economics that has largely kept itself out of the spotlight, but I think he makes too much of matching (rather than price) as being a large feature of markets. He notes that in most markets not everything is allocated by price and ass ...more
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Alvin Elliot Roth (born December 18, 1951) is an American academician personality, he is the Craig and Susan McCaw professor of economics at Stanford University and the Gund professor of economics and business administration emeritus at Harvard University.

Roth has made significant contributions to the fields of game theory, market design and experimental economics, and is known for his emphasis on

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20 likes · 3 comments
“(Mutual interest is what separates courting couples from stalker and prey.)” 1 likes
“The only country in which it is legal to buy and sell kidneys from living donor/sellers is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Legal markets were permitted there after the need for kidneys spiked during the Iran-Iraq War.” 0 likes
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