TWO Americans were awarded the Nobel economics prize yesterday for studies on the matchmaking taking place when doctors are coupled up with hospitals, students with schools and human organs with transplant recipients.
The work of Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley has sparked a "flourishing field of research" and helped improve the performance of many markets, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.
Roth, 60, is a professor at Harvard University in Boston. Shapley, 89, is a professor emeritus at University of California Los Angeles.
"This year's prize concerns a central economic problem: how to match different agents as well as possible," the academy said.
Shapley made early theoretical inroads into the subject, using game theory to analyze different matching methods in the 1950s and 1960s. Together with US economist David Gale, he developed a mathematical formula for how 10 men and 10 women could be coupled in a way so that no one would benefit from trading partners. While that may have had little impact on marriages and divorces, the algorithm they developed has been used to better understand many different markets.
In the 1990s, Roth applied it to the market for allocating US student doctors to hospitals. He developed a new algorithm that was adopted by the National Resident Matching Program, which helps match resident doctors with the right hospitals.
"Even though these two researchers worked independently of one another, the combination of Shapley's basic theory and Roth's empirical investigations, experiments and practical design has generated a flourishing field of research and improved the performance of many markets," the academy said.
The official prize citation said the two were awarded for "the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design."