Efficient Kidney Exchange: Coincidence of Wants in a Structured Market

Alvin E. Roth, Tayfun Sonmez, M. Utku Unver

NBER Working Paper No. 11402
Issued in June 2005
NBER Program(s):Health Care

Patients needing kidney transplants may have willing donors who cannot donate to them because of blood or tissue incompatibility. Incompatible patient-donor pairs can exchange donor kidneys with other such pairs. The situation facing such pairs resembles models of the "double coincidence of wants," and relatively few exchanges have been consummated by decentralized means. As the population of available patient-donor pairs grows, the frequency with which exchanges can be arranged will depend in part on how exchanges are organized. We study the potential frequency of exchanges as a function of the number of patient-donor pairs, and the size of the largest feasible exchange. Developing infrastructure to identify and perform 3-way as well as 2-way exchanges will have a substantial effect on the number of transplants, and will help the most vulnerable patients. Larger than 3-way exchanges have much smaller impact. Larger populations of patient-donor pairs increase the percentage of patients of all kinds who can find exchanges.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11402

Published: Roth, Alvin E., Tayfun Sönmez and M. Utku Ünver. "Efficient Kidney Exchange: Coincidence of Wants in Markets with Compatibility-Based Preferences." American Economic Review 97, 3 (June 2007): 828-851.

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