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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 13, 2024
  2. Instant runoff voting (IRV) is an increasingly-popular alternative to traditional plurality voting in which voters submit rankings over the candidates rather than single votes. In practice, elections using IRV often restrict the ballot length, the number of candidates a voter is allowed to rank on their ballot. We theoretically and empirically analyze how ballot length can influence the outcome of an election, given fixed voter preferences. We show that there exist preference profiles over k candidates such that up to k-1 different candidates win at different ballot lengths. We derive exact lower bounds on the number of voters required for such profiles and provide a construction matching the lower bound for unrestricted voter preferences. Additionally, we characterize which sequences of winners are possible over ballot lengths and provide explicit profile constructions achieving any feasible winner sequence. We also examine how classic preference restrictions influence our results—for instance, single-peakedness makes k-1 different winners impossible but still allows at least Ω(√k). Finally, we analyze a collection of 168 real-world elections, where we truncate rankings to simulate shorter ballots. We find that shorter ballots could have changed the outcome in one quarter of these elections. Our results highlight ballot length as a consequential degree of freedom in the design of IRV elections. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 27, 2024
  3. Many policies in the US are determined locally, e.g., at the county-level. Local policy regimes provide flexibility between regions, but may become less effective in the presence of geographic spillovers, where populations circumvent local restrictions by traveling to less restricted regions nearby. Due to the endogenous nature of policymaking, there have been few opportunities to reliably estimate causal spillover effects or evaluate their impact on local policies. In this work, we identify a novel setting and develop a suitable methodology that allow us to make unconfounded estimates of spillover effects of local policies. Focusing on California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, we leverage how county-level mobility restrictions were deterministically set by public COVID-19 severity statistics, enabling a regression discontinuity design framework to estimate spillovers between counties. We estimate these effects using a mobility network with billions of timestamped edges and find significant spillover movement, with larger effects in retail, eating places, and gyms. Contrasting local and global policy regimes, our spillover estimates suggest that county-level restrictions are only 54% as effective as statewide restrictions at reducing mobility. However, an intermediate strategy of macro-county restrictions—where we optimize county partitions by solving a minimum k-cut problem on a graph weighted by our spillover estimates— can recover over 90% of statewide mobility reductions, while maintaining substantial flexibility between counties. 
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  4. Balanced graph partitioning is a critical step for many large-scale distributed computations with relational data. As graph datasets have grown in size and density, a range of highly-scalable balanced partitioning algorithms have appeared to meet varied demands across different domains. As the starting point for the present work, we observe that two recently introduced families of iterative partitioners---those based on restreaming and those based on balanced label propagation (including Facebook's Social Hash Partitioner)---can be viewed through a common modular framework of design decisions. With the help of this modular perspective, we find that a key combination of design decisions leads to a novel family of algorithms with notably better empirical performance than any existing highly-scalable algorithm on a broad range of real-world graphs. The resulting prioritized restreaming algorithms employ a constraint management strategy based on multiplicative weights, borrowed from the restreaming literature, while adopting notions of priority from balanced label propagation to optimize the ordering of the streaming process. Our experimental results consider a range of stream orders, where a dynamic ordering based on what we call ambivalence is broadly the most performative in terms of the cut quality of the resulting balanced partitions, with a static ordering based on degree being nearly as good. 
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