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Changing the Boston School Choice Mechanism

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  • Atila Abdulkadiroglu
  • Parag A. Pathak
  • Alvin E. Roth
  • Tayfun Sönmez

Abstract

In July 2005 the Boston School Committee voted to replace the existing Boston school choice mechanism with a deferred acceptance mechanism that simplifies the strategic choices facing parents. This paper presents the empirical case against the previous Boston mechanism, a priority matching mechanism, and the case in favor of the change to a strategy-proof mechanism. Using detailed records on student choices and assignments, we present evidence both of sophisticated strategic behavior among some parents, and of unsophisticated strategic behavior by others. We find evidence that some parents pay close attention to the capacity constraints of different schools, while others appear not to. In particular, we show that many unassigned students could have been assigned to one of their stated choices with a different strategy under the current mechanism. This interaction between sophisticated and unsophisticated players identifies a new rationale for strategy-proof mechanisms based on fairness, and was a critical argument in Boston's decision to change the mechanism. We then discuss the considerations that led to the adoption of a deferred acceptance mechanism as opposed to the (also strategy-proof) top trading cycles mechanism.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by UCLA Department of Economics in its series Levine's Bibliography with number 122247000000001022.

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Date of creation: 13 Jan 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:122247000000001022

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  1. Ariel Rubinstein, 2004. "Dilemmas of an Economic Theorist," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings, Econometric Society 661, Econometric Society.
  2. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Parag A. Pathak & Alvin E. Roth, 2005. "The New York City High School Match," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 364-367, May.
  3. Chen, Yan & Sonmez, Tayfun, 2006. "School choice: an experimental study," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 127(1), pages 202-231, March.
  4. Barbera, Salvador & Jackson, Matthew O. & Neme, Alejandro, 1997. "Strategy-Proof Allotment Rules," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-21, January.
  5. Alvin E. Roth & Uriel G. Rothblum, 1999. "Truncation Strategies in Matching Markets--In Search of Advice for Participants," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 67(1), pages 21-44, January.
  6. Ergin, Haluk & Sonmez, Tayfun, 2006. "Games of school choice under the Boston mechanism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 215-237, January.
  7. Muriel Niederle & Alvin E Roth, 2003. "Unraveling Reduces Mobility in a Labor Market: Gastroenterology with and without a Centralized Match," Levine's Working Paper Archive 506439000000000428, David K. Levine.
  8. Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun Sonmez & M. Utku Unver, 2003. "Kidney Exchange," Game Theory and Information, EconWPA 0308002, EconWPA.
  9. Roth, Alvin E., 1985. "The college admissions problem is not equivalent to the marriage problem," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 277-288, August.
  10. Salvador Barbera & Matthew O. Jackson, 1993. "Strategy-Proof Exchange," Discussion Papers, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science 1021, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  11. Kelso, Alexander S, Jr & Crawford, Vincent P, 1982. "Job Matching, Coalition Formation, and Gross Substitutes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1483-1504, November.
  12. Roth, Alvin E, 1984. "The Evolution of the Labor Market for Medical Interns and Residents: A Case Study in Game Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(6), pages 991-1016, December.
  13. Roth, Alvin & Ünver, M. Utku & Sönmez, Tayfun, 2005. "A Kidney Exchange Clearinghouse in New England," Scholarly Articles 2562810, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Alvin E. Roth, 2002. "The Economist as Engineer: Game Theory, Experimentation, and Computation as Tools for Design Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1341-1378, July.
  15. Sönmez, Tayfun & Pathak, Parag A. & Abdulkadiroglu, Atila & Roth, Alvin, 2005. "The Boston Public School Match," Scholarly Articles 2562764, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  16. Moulin, Herve & Shenker, Scott, 1992. "Serial Cost Sharing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1009-37, September.
  17. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Tayfun Sönmez, 2003. "School Choice: A Mechanism Design Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 729-747, June.
  18. Roth, Alvin E. & Sonmez, Tayfun & Utku Unver, M., 2005. "Pairwise kidney exchange," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 151-188, December.
  19. Groves, Theodore, 1973. "Incentives in Teams," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 617-31, July.
  20. Roth, Alvin E. & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1977. "Weak versus strong domination in a market with indivisible goods," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 131-137, August.
  21. Shapley, Lloyd & Scarf, Herbert, 1974. "On cores and indivisibility," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 23-37, March.
  22. John William Hatfield & Paul R. Milgrom, 2005. "Matching with Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 913-935, September.
  23. Alvin E. Roth & Elliott Peranson, 1999. "The Redesign of the Matching Market for American Physicians: Some Engineering Aspects of Economic Design," NBER Working Papers 6963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Roth,Alvin E. & Sotomayor,Marilda A. Oliveira, 1992. "Two-Sided Matching," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521437882.
  25. Roth, Alvin E, 1991. "A Natural Experiment in the Organization of Entry-Level Labor Markets: Regional Markets for New Physicians and Surgeons in the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 81(3), pages 415-40, June.
  26. Abdulkadiroglu, Atila & Sonmez, Tayfun, 1999. "House Allocation with Existing Tenants," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 233-260, October.
  27. Green, Jerry & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1977. "Characterization of Satisfactory Mechanisms for the Revelation of Preferences for Public Goods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 45(2), pages 427-38, March.
  28. Sprumont, Yves, 1991. "The Division Problem with Single-Peaked Preferences: A Characterization of the Uniform Allocation Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 509-19, March.
  29. Roth, Alvin & Niederle, Muriel, 2005. "The Gastroenterology Fellowship Market: Should There Be A Match?," Scholarly Articles 2562766, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  30. Szilvia Papai, 2000. "Strategyproof Assignment by Hierarchical Exchange," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 68(6), pages 1403-1434, November.
  31. Roth, Alvin E., 1982. "Incentive compatibility in a market with indivisible goods," Economics Letters, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 127-132.
  32. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu, 2005. "College admissions with affirmative action," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 535-549, November.
  33. Julie Berry Cullen & Brian A. Jacob & Steven Levitt, 2003. "The Effect of School Choice on Student Outcomes: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries," NBER Working Papers 10113, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  34. Balinski, Michel & Sonmez, Tayfun, 1999. "A Tale of Two Mechanisms: Student Placement," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 73-94, January.
  35. Satterthwaite, Mark Allen, 1975. "Strategy-proofness and Arrow's conditions: Existence and correspondence theorems for voting procedures and social welfare functions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 187-217, April.
  36. Moulin, Herve, 1994. "Serial Cost-Sharing of Excludable Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(2), pages 305-25, April.
  37. John H. Kagel & Alvin E. Roth, 2000. "The Dynamics Of Reorganization In Matching Markets: A Laboratory Experiment Motivated By A Natural Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 115(1), pages 201-235, February.
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