Alvin E. Roth

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Alvin Roth
Alvin E. Roth 3 2012.jpg
Alvin E. Roth in Stockholm 2012
Alvin Elliot Roth

(1951-12-18) December 18, 1951 (age 69)
New York City, New York, U.S.
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Institution Stanford University
Harvard University
Field Game theory, market design, experimental economics
Alma mater Columbia University B.S.
Stanford University Ph.D.
Robert B. Wilson
Georg Weizsäcker
Parag Pathak [1]
Fuhito Kojima
Contributions Market design
Awards Frederick W. Lanchester Prize (1990)
Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2012)
Golden Goose Award (2013)
Member of the National Academy of Sciences (2013)
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Alvin Elliot Roth (born December 18, 1951) is an American academic. 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. [2] He was President of the American Economics Association in 2017. [3]


Roth has made significant contributions to the fields of game theory, market design and experimental economics, and is known for his emphasis on applying economic theory to solutions for "real-world" problems. [4] [5]

In 2012, he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences jointly with Lloyd Shapley "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design". [6]


Al Roth, Sydney Ideas lecture 2012 Al Roth, Sydney Ideas lecture 2012c.jpg
Al Roth, Sydney Ideas lecture 2012

Alvin Roth graduated from Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1971 with a bachelor's degree in Operations Research. He then moved to Stanford University, receiving both his Master's and PhD also in Operations Research there in 1973 and 1974 respectively. [7]

After leaving Stanford, Roth went on to teach at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign which he left in 1982 to become the Andrew W. Mellon professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh. While at Pittsburgh, he also served as a fellow in the University's Center for Philosophy of Science and as a professor in the Katz Graduate School of Business. [8] In 1998, Roth left to join the faculty at Harvard [9] where he remained until deciding to return to Stanford in 2012. [10] In 2013 he became a full member of the Stanford faculty and took emeritus status at Harvard. [2]

Roth is an Alfred P. Sloan fellow, a Guggenheim fellow, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. [9] [11] [12] He is also a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and the Econometric Society. [13] [14] In 2013, Roth, Shapley, and David Gale won a Golden Goose Award for their work on market design. [15] A collection of Roth's papers is housed at the Rubenstein Library at Duke University. [16]


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. Describing the dynamism of market design, Roth suggests that 'As the conditions of the market change, the behavior of people change and that causes old rules to be discarded and new rules to be created'. [17]

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. [18] 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. [19]

In 1999 Roth redesigned the matching program to ensure stable matches even with married couples. [20] [21]

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 Atila Abdulkadiroğlu and Parag Pathak proposed David Gale and Lloyd Shapley's incentive-compatible student-proposing deferred acceptance algorithm to the school board in 2003. The school board accepted the measure as the method of selection for New York City public school students. [22] [23]

Boston's public school system

Working with Atila Abdulkadiroğlu, Parag A. Pathak, and Tayfun Sonmez, Roth presented a similar measure to Boston's public school system in 2003. 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. [24] Some Boston parents had informally recognized this feature of the system and developed detailed lists in order to avoid having their children administratively assigned. [25] [26] Boston held public hearings on the school selection system and finally in 2005 settled on David Gale and Lloyd Shapley's incentive-compatible student-proposing deferred acceptance algorithm.

New England Program for Kidney Exchange

Roth is a founder of the New England Program for Kidney Exchange along with Tayfun Sonmez and Utku Unver, [27] a registry and matching program that pairs compatible kidney donors and recipients. [28]

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, [29]

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. [30] 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. A 12-party (six donors and six recipients) kidney exchange was performed in April 2008. [31] [32]

Personal life

Roth is married and has two sons. [7] His elder son, Aaron Roth, is a professor of computer science at the University of Pennsylvania. [33] As of 2015, his younger son, Ben Roth, is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. [34]


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

Journal articles

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

See also

Related Research Articles

Organ transplantation Medical procedure in which an organ is removed from one body and placed in the body of a recipient

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In mathematics, economics, and computer science, the stable marriage problem is the problem of finding a stable matching between two equally sized sets of elements given an ordering of preferences for each element. A matching is a bijection from the elements of one set to the elements of the other set. A matching is not stable if:

Lloyd Shapley American mathematician

Lloyd Stowell Shapley was an American mathematician and Nobel Prize-winning economist. He contributed to the fields of mathematical economics and especially game theory. Shapley is generally considered one of the most important contributors to the development of game theory since the work of von Neumann and Morgenstern. With Alvin E. Roth, Shapley won the 2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design."

David Gale American mathematician

David Gale was an American mathematician and economist. He was a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, affiliated with the departments of mathematics, economics, and industrial engineering and operations research. He has contributed to the fields of mathematical economics, game theory, and convex analysis.

Robert Butler Wilson, Jr. is an American economist and the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management, Emeritus at Stanford University. He was jointly awarded the 2020 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, together with his Stanford colleague and former student Paul R. Milgrom, "for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats". Two more of his students, Alvin E. Roth and Bengt Holmström, are also Nobel Laureates in their own right.

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), also called The Match, is a United States-based private non-profit non-governmental organization created in 1952 to place U.S. medical school students into residency training programs located in United States teaching hospitals. Its mission has since expanded to include the placement of U.S. citizen and non-U.S. citizen international medical school students and graduates into residency and fellowship training programs. In addition to the annual Main Residency Match that encompasses more than 43,000 applicants and 31,000 positions, the NRMP conducts Fellowship Matches for more than 60 subspecialties through its Specialties Matching Service (SMS). The NRMP is sponsored by a Board of Directors that includes medical school deans, teaching hospital executives, graduate medical education program directors, medical students and residents, and one public member.

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In mathematics, economics, and computer science, the Gale–Shapley algorithm is an algorithm for finding a solution to the stable matching problem, named for David Gale and Lloyd Shapley who had described it as solving both the college admission problem and the stable marriage problem. It takes polynomial time, and the time is linear in the size of the input to the algorithm. Depending on how it is used, it can find either the solution that is optimal for the participants on one side of the matching, or for the participants on the other side. It is a truthful mechanism from the point of view of the participants for whom it provides the optimal solution.

J. Hartwell Harrison American surgeon (1909–1984)

John Hartwell Harrison was an American urologic surgeon, professor, and author. He performed the first human organ removal for transplant to another. This was a pivotal undertaking as a member of the medical team that accomplished the world’s first successful kidney transplant. The team conducted its landmark transplant between identical twins in 1954.

Parag A. Pathak is Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research where he co-founded and directs the working group on market design.

Tayfun Sönmez is a Turkish-American professor of economics at Boston College. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the 2008 winner of the Social Choice and Welfare Prize, which honors scholars under the age of 40 for excellent accomplishment in the area of social choice theory and welfare economics. Sönmez has made significant contributions in the areas of microeconomic theory, mechanism/market design, and game theory. His work has been featured by the U.S. National Science Foundation for its practical relevance.

The Journal of Mathematical Economics is a bimonthly peer-reviewed academic journal of mathematical economics published by Elsevier. It covers work in economic theory which expresses economic ideas using formal mathematical reasoning. The journal was established in 1974, with Werner Hildenbrand as the founding editor-in-chief. The current editor-in-chief is Andres Carvajal. According to the Journal Citation Reports, the journal has a 2018 5-year impact factor of 0.725.

The National Kidney Registry (NKR) is a national registry in the United States listing kidney donors and recipients in need of a kidney transplant. NKR facilitates over 450 "Kidney Paired Donation" (KPD) or "Paired Exchange" transplants annually.

Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) or Paired Exchange, is an approach to living donor kidney transplantation where patients with incompatible donors swap kidneys to receive a compatible kidney. KPD is used in situations where a potential donor is incompatible. Because better donor HLA and age matching are correlated with lower lifetime mortality and longer lasting kidney transplants, many compatible pairs are also participating in swaps to find better matched kidneys. In the United States, the National Kidney Registry organizes the majority of U.S. KPD transplants, including the largest swaps. Swaps involving more than two recipients are termed a kidney chain. The first large swap was a 60 participant chain in 2012 that appeared on the front page of the New York Times and the second, even larger swap, included 70 participants and was completed in 2014. Other KPD programs in the U.S. include the UNOS program which was launched in 2010 and completed its 100th KPD transplant in 2014 and the Alliance for Paired Donation.

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In graph theory, a priority matching is a matching that maximizes the number of high-priority vertices that participate in the matching. Formally, we are given a graph G =, and a partition of the vertex-set V into some k subsets, V1, ..., Vk, called priority classes. A priority matching is a matching that, among all possible matchings, saturates the largest number of vertices from V1; subject to this, it saturates the largest number of vertices from V2; subject to this, it saturates the largest number of vertices from V3; and so on.

Two-Sided Matching: A Study in Game-Theoretic Modeling and Analysis is a book on matching markets in economics and game theory, particularly concentrating on the stable marriage problem. It was written by Alvin E. Roth and Marilda Sotomayor, with a preface by Robert Aumann, and published in 1990 by the Cambridge University Press as volume 18 in their series of Econometric Society monographs. For this work, Roth and Sotomayor won the 1990 Frederick W. Lanchester Prize of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

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In economics and social choice theory, a no-justified-envy matching is a matching in a two-sided market, in which no agent prefers the assignment of another agent and is simultaneously preferred by that assignment.


  1. Essays on real -life allocation problems
  2. 1 2 Al Roth's Game Theory, Experimental Economics, and Market Design Page (accessed 2013-27-04).
  3. Past Presidents
  4. Susan Adams, "Un-Freakonomics: A Harvard professor uses economics to save lives, assign doctors and get kids into the right high school." Forbes , August 9, 2010.
  5. Leon Neyfakh, "The Matchmaker: The Harvard economist who stopped just studying the world and began trying to fix it", The Boston Globe , April 3, 2011.
  6. The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2012, Nobel Prize official site (accessed 2012-10-15).
  7. 1 2 Niklas Magnusson and Josiane Kremer, Roth, Shapley Win Nobel Economics Prize for Matching Theory",, October 15, 2012.
  8. Chute, Eleanor (October 15, 2012). "Professor with Pitt ties wins Nobel economics prize". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  9. 1 2 Alvin E. Roth Biography Archived 2008-06-18 at the Wayback Machine Faculty and Research. Accessed on June 6, 2008
  10. Katherine Mangan, "Stanford Lures Alvin Roth and 2 Other Economists From Harvard", The Chronicle of Higher Education , June 18, 2012.
  11. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation R Fellows Page Archived August 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine . John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Accessed on July 6, 2008
  12. Members of the Academy of Arts & Sciences Archived June 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine (October 2007). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Accessed on July 6, 2008
  13. Fellows of the Econometric Society Archived December 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine (March 2008). Econometric Society. Accessed on July 6, 2008
  14. Alvin E. Roth . National Bureau of Economic Research. Accessed on July 6, 2008
  15. "Market Design". The Golden Goose Award. Archived from the original on 2016-12-16. Retrieved 2015-05-27.
  16. "Alvin Roth Papers". Rubenstein Library, Duke University. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  17. Alvin Roth. in UBS Nobel Perspectives interview, 2012.
  18. D. Gale and L. S. Shapley: "College Admissions and the Stability of Marriage", American Mathematical Monthly 69, 9–14, 1962.
  19. Alvin E. Roth (1984). "The Evolution of the Labor Market for Medical Interns and Residents: A Case Study in Game Theory" Archived July 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine . In: Journal of Political Economy 92: 991–1016. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  20. 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.
  21. Sara Robinson. "Tweaking the Math to Make Happier Medical Marriages". in: The New York Times. August 24, 2004.
  22. Alvin E. Roth (2005). "The New York City High School Match" Archived July 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine (or here ). With Atila Abdulkadiroglu and Parag A. Pathak. in: American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings 95. (2): 364–367.
  23. Herszenhornh, David M. (October 3, 2003). "Revised Admission for High Schools". The New York Times . pp. New York/Region. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
  24. Gareth Cook (2003). "School assignment flaws detailed: Two economists study problem, offer relief" Archived 2008-12-10 at the Wayback Machine In: The Boston Globe 2003-9-12.
  25. Alvin E. Roth. (2007). "Robert Rosenthal Memorial Lecture 2007: What Have we Learned from Market Design?" Archived May 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Flash, Web Video. Boston: Boston University.
  26. 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.
  27. Dubner, Stephen; Levitt, Steven (July 9, 2006). "Flesh Trade". New York Times Magazine . Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  28. Wessel, David (June 17, 2004). "Renal Donors Swap Recipients If Blood Types Don't Match; Cheating on Priority Lists". The Wall Street Journal . Archived from the original on July 6, 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  29. "Kidney Exchange: A Life-Saving Application of Matching Theory". Discoveries. National Science Foundation. Archived from the original on June 21, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  30. Roth, Alvin E.; Tayfun Sonmez; Utku Unver (2005). "Pairwise kidney exchange" (PDF). Journal of Economic Theory. 125 (2): 153. doi:10.1016/j.jet.2005.04.004. S2CID   583399. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 25, 2010. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  31. "'Six-way' kidney transplant first". BBC News . April 9, 2008. Retrieved June 1, 2008.
  32. Harford, Tim (April 10, 2008). "6-way kidney exchange: Al Roth should be proud". The Undercover Economist blog. Financial Times. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  33. "Aaron Roth".
  34. "MIT Economics : Graduate Economics Association".
Preceded by
Thomas J. Sargent
Christopher A. Sims
Laureate of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics
Served alongside: Lloyd S. Shapley
Succeeded by
Eugene F. Fama
Lars Peter Hansen
Robert J. Shiller
Academic offices
Preceded by
Robert J. Shiller
President of the American Economic Association
2017– 2018
Succeeded by
Olivier Blanchard