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Can Markets Save Lives? An Experimental Investigation of a Market for Organ Donations


  • Cary Deck

    () (University of Arkansas and Economic Science Institute)

  • Erik O. Kimbrough

    (Maastricht University and Economic Science Institute)


Many people die while waiting for organ transplants even though the number of usable organs is far larger than the number needed for transplant. Governments have devised many policies aimed at increasing available transplant organs with variable success. However, with few exceptions, policy makers are reluctant to establish markets for organs despite the potential for mutually beneficial exchanges. We ask whether organ markets could save lives. Controlled laboratory methods are ideal for this inquiry because human lives would be involved when implementing field trials. Our results suggest that markets can increase the supply of organs available for transplant, but that the specific institutional design of such markets must be carefully considered. However, the increased supply of transplantable organs derives disproportionately from the poor. We also find that exogenously reducing incentives to keep one’s organs has a similar effect to creating a market, but with equitable donation rates across income levels.

Suggested Citation

  • Cary Deck & Erik O. Kimbrough, 2010. "Can Markets Save Lives? An Experimental Investigation of a Market for Organ Donations," Working Papers 10-16, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:chu:wpaper:10-16

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fama, Eugene F & French, Kenneth R, 1992. " The Cross-Section of Expected Stock Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 47(2), pages 427-465, June.
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    4. Rustam Ibragimov & Johan Walden, 2006. "Portfolio Diversification Under Local, Moderate and Global Deviations From Power Laws," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2116, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    5. Amihud, Yakov & Mendelson, Haim, 1986. "Asset pricing and the bid-ask spread," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 223-249, December.
    6. Benoit Mandelbrot, 2015. "The Variation of Certain Speculative Prices," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: THE WORLD SCIENTIFIC HANDBOOK OF FUTURES MARKETS, chapter 3, pages 39-78 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    7. Datar, Vinay T. & Y. Naik, Narayan & Radcliffe, Robert, 1998. "Liquidity and stock returns: An alternative test," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 203-219, August.
    8. Banz, Rolf W., 1981. "The relationship between return and market value of common stocks," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 3-18, March.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. The Dobbs paradox
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2010-11-02 18:51:29

    More about this item


    Organ Donations; Wealth Effects; Market Design; Experimental Economics;

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance

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