Using Lottery Prizes to Incentivise Covid Vaccine Take-Up

According to the article “Mastering the art of persuasion during a pandemic” in the journal Nature (OUTLOOK, 26 October 2022):

After the first COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out in the United States, local and state officials invested millions in the idea that waving money at people would convince them to get the jabs. Leaders tried straight cash incentives, whereby people collected a set sum for getting vaccinated, as well as lotteries, in which vaccinated people were entered into a draw to win a cash prize.

But the concept often flopped. One study (3) that gauged the effectiveness of vaccine lotteries found that vaccination rates were not significantly higher in lottery states than in non-lottery ones. Guaranteed cash payouts were somewhat more likely to encourage vaccination, a meta-analysis showed (4). Still, the evidence on incentive-based persuasion “is pretty disheartening in general”, Milkman says.

She is now studying a twist on the lottery strategy that might deliver more value for money — a regret lottery. This involves telling people that their name has been entered into a draw to win a large amount of money, but if their name is pulled from the hat and they have not been vaccinated then they will have to decline the reward. When Milkman and her team tried this in Philadelphia (5), vaccine rates in the area increased slightly compared with those in other, similar areas that did not have a regret lottery. “The one data point we have looks promising,” Milkman says, but further research is needed to confirm the finding.

References from the original:

(3) Law, A. C. et al. JAMA Intern Med. 182, 235–237 (2022).

(4) Brewer, N. T. et al. Lancet Reg. Health Am. 8, 100205 (2022).

(5) Milkman, K. L. et al. Nature Hum. Behav. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01437-0 (2022).

Making research funding a lottery could help tackle ‘status bias’

Interesting article in the Financial Times.

The system of peer review tends to favour established names and institutions

By Anjana Ahujaa. The writer is a science commentator.

Star names wield an outsize influence over research, as well as in sport and entertainment. A recent analysis revealed that a research paper written jointly by a Nobel laureate and a novice was rejected by 65 per cent of reviewers when only the novice’s name was made visible as the corresponding author — but by just 23 per cent if the laureate’s name was used instead.

One might argue that “status bias”, also called the Matthew effect, makes for a reasonable short-cut in decision-making, given that prizes are one benchmark of quality.

But findings like these chime with persistent concerns that established names and institutions are unfairly crowding out newer research talent when it comes to publishing papers and winning grants. Now, two UK funding agencies, the British Academy and the Natural Environment Research Council, will try to counter that bias by awarding some of their research grants by lottery.
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Small steps

Access to the chamber’s time for dealing with members’ bills is randomised.

Well this is a small step indeed, (perhaps intimated by the picture) but I thought readers might be interested in this little feature of New Zealand’s parliamentary arrangements.

It is usually the proviso of Christmas Day snacking or visits to your nan’s. But in New Zealand – a country with a penchant for on-the-fly problem-solving – the humble biscuit tin has become a mainstay of parliamentary democracy.

There, as in Britain, members’ bills are a chance for MPs to have laws that they have proposed debated in the house.

But unlike in Westminster, in Wellington those bills are represented by plastic bingo counters in a 30-year-old biscuit tin. A curled, yellowing paper label taped to the front helpfully proclaims: Members’ Bills.

New Zealand House Speaker Trevor Mallard bottle-feeds lawmaker Tamati Coffey’s baby while presiding over a debate in parliament

Each plastic counter represents a bill, and when there is space on parliament’s order paper for a fresh round of proposed laws, a member of the parliamentary service digs into the tin for a lucky dip.

“It was what was available at the time,” Trevor Mallard, the Speaker of New Zealand’s parliament said of the tin, adding that it had initially contained “a mixed selection of biscuits”.

The tin was introduced after parliamentary reforms in the 1980s that changed an earlier method for keeping track of members’ bills – a list – to a ballot draw.

San Francisco recalls school board members who replaced exams with a lottery

A year ago the San Francisco board of education voted to replace admission exams at Lowell High School, “regarded as San Francisco’s top public high school”, and one of two public schools using exams for admissions, with a lottery. The school has a high proportion of Asian students and a low proportion of Black students, and, naturally, the change was presented as both being unfair to the former and as being a way to address discrimination against the latter.

On Tuesday some of the board members behind this change (as well as some other more symbolic changes) were recalled by large majorities of the San Francisco voters.

Sandel: “Summon Chance to Chasten Meritocratic Hubris”

Millions of YouTube viewers will be familiar with Michael Sandel of Harvard University’s lectures on Justice. He has been described as “a philosopher with the global profile of a rock star”, so it is greatly encouraging when in his book The Tyranny of Merit he emphatically endorses the use of lotteries for admission to elite universities.

His condemnation of actual existing Meritocracy is well worth a read, not least the societally damaging effects of hubris and self-worth among the elite ‘winners’; and the despondency and nihilistic voting for Brexit and Trump by the ‘losers’ and indeed all the non-credentialled.

In Chapter 6 makes a heartfelt and extended plea for the extensive use of lotteries for admission to not just Ivy League, but all selective colleges and universities. This Sandel says would “summon Chance to chasten Merit”.

I’m sure most readers are familiar with the American S.A.T. (Standardized Attainment Test), a sort of IQ test inflicted on 18-year-olds. This, Sandel suggests, could be used to establish a threshold for entry into the selection lottery and nothing else. This level of ‘Merit’ should be no more onerous than that imposed when the SAT was originated in the 1940s.

From this device Sandel argues that winners will be saved much  stress and avoid much of the (wasted?) effort of working towards the impressive list of activities that fills out their application form. Losers will gain too. No more rejections, and being made to feel  inadequate, despite losing narrowly. Much more psychologically healthy all round!

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2021 review – statistics

Below are some statistics about the 12th year of Equality-by-Lot. Comparable numbers for last year can be found here.

2021 Page views Posts Comments
Jan 2,684 13 182
Feb 3,105 15 117
Mar 3,253 11 131
Apr 3,096 9 118
May 3,303 14 34
June 2,806 11 70
July 2,408 7 76
Aug 2,506 6 41
Sept 2,314 11 93
Oct 2,400 8 102
Nov 2,388 10 136
Dec (to 21st) 2,133 10 92
Total 32,396 125 1,192

Note that page views do not include visits by logged-in contributors – the wordpress system does not count those visits.

Posts were made by 20 authors during 2021. (There were, of course, many other authors quoted and linked to.)

This blog currently has 152 email followers, 334 WordPress followers and 499 Twitter followers (@Klerotarian).

Searching for “distribution by lot” (with quotes) using Google returns Equality-by-Lot as the 2nd result (out of “about 330,000 results”). Continuing the demotion trend which has begun last year, Equality-by-Lot is now on the 10th page of results when searching for “sortition” using the Google search engine (out of “about 285,000 results”). This demotion may explain the significant decline in the total number of views in 2021 relative to 2020.

Happy holidays and a happy new year to Equality-by-Lot readers, commenters and posters. Keep up the good fight for democracy!

Call for 2021 review input

This is the yearly call for input for the year’s end review. As in previous years, I would like to have a post or two summarizing the ongoings here at Equality-by-Lot and notable sortition-related events over the passing year. Any input about what should be included is welcome – either through comments below or via email. You are invited to refresh your memory about the events of the passing year by browsing Equality-by-Lot’s archives.

For previous years’ summaries see: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

The best case ever that I’ve seen for awarding jobs, promotions and redundos by Lottery

A delightful short video, with academic backing.

Where is the quota for the short, the fat, the bald men, and all the other uglies?

Dominic Frisby adds:

It is based on some research I once read by American economist Daniel Hamermesh about the most discriminated against group in society. It doesn’t matter what race you are, what class, what sex or what age: beauty pays – attractive people are more successful. It features popular adult actress Zara du Rose, pictured above, as the Evil Queen and a host of others.

I included some of this in my own paper from 1997

http://www.conallboyle.com/lottery/Boyle1998RSSStatistician.pdf

The Irish Times: Colleges expect spike in random selection

The Irish Times reports:

Colleges expect spike in random selection: High-points courses in health, law, pharmacy and science most likely to be affected

A system of lottery entry for equal-scoring candidates has been in place in Ireland since 2009. It seems that this year’s exceptional circumstances (Covid) has led to a ‘spike’ in its use.

Perhaps the headline should have read:

For those scoring equally high points, despite (a Covid-related) spike in top scores, random selection (a lottery) will sort out who wins a place

The article continues:

Universities fear they will have to restrict entry to more high-points courses on the basis of “random selection” this year due to record-breaking Leaving Cert results.

Results this year climbed to a new high with a sharp increase in the number of students securing top H1 grades.

Senior university sources expect they will have to introduce more random cut-off points for entry into high-demand courses such as medicine, dentistry, law, pharmacy and science when CAO offers issue on Tuesday next.
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School entry lottery in Nepal

The Himalayan Times reports:

Lottery to attend public schools: NSEP should aim for this
By Simone Galimberti, Jul 13, 2021

Recently St. Xavier’s School, a prestigious educational institution in the country, conducted the selection process for students for the new upcoming school year. It is a rigorous and transparent process that sees thousands of families hoping to get their children admitted to a sound environment focused on the “whole” development of the student.

Despite the strict selection criteria with tests and various requirements, the senior management of St. Xavier’s School was forced, given the high number of applications, to also include in the process, at least for some of the places available, a sortition procedure to finalise the names of admitted students. In order to assure the highest levels of integrity, in what is ultimately a lottery for those who had already met the eligibility criteria, the entire process was broadcast live on TV nationally.
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