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The Multi-unit Assignment Problem: Theory and Evidence from Course Allocation at Harvard

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  • Budish, Eric
  • Cantillon, Estelle

Abstract

This paper uses data consisting of students' strategically reported preferences and their underlying true preferences to study the course allocation mechanism used at Harvard Business School. We show that the mechanism is manipulable in theory, manipulated in practice, and that these manipulations cause meaningful welfare losses. However, we also find that ex-ante welfare is higher than under the strategyproof and ex-post efficient alternative, the Random Serial Dictatorship. We trace the poor ex-ante performance of RSD to a phenomenon specific to multi-unit assignment, "callousness". We draw lessons for the design of multi-unit assignment mechanisms and for market design more broadly.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7641.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7641

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Related research

Keywords: course allocation; dictatorship; ex-ante efficiency; ex-post efficiency; field data; market design; multi-unit assignment; random serial dictatorship; strategic behaviour; strategyproofness;

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References

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  1. Nurmi, Hannu, 1996. "Fair division: From cake-cutting to dispute resolution : Steven J. Brams and Alan D. Taylor, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995) pp. xiv + 272, US$ 54.95 (hardcover), US$ 18.95 (paper)," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 169-172, April.
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  18. Tayfun Sönmez & M. Utku Ünver, 2005. "Course Bidding at Business Schools," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 618, Boston College Department of Economics.
  19. Eric Budish, 2011. "The Combinatorial Assignment Problem: Approximate Competitive Equilibrium from Equal Incomes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(6), pages 1061 - 1103.
  20. EHLERS, Lars & MASSÓ, Jordi, 2007. "Matching Markets under (In)complete Information," Cahiers de recherche 2007-01, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Alistair Wilson & Mariagiovanna Baccara & Ayse Imrohoroglu & Leeat Yariv, 2009. "A Field Study on Matching with Network Externalities," Working Papers 486, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2011.
  2. Tayfun Sönmez & Tobias B. Switzer, 2011. "Matching with (Branch-of-Choice) Contracts at United States Military Academy," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 782, Boston College Department of Economics.
  3. EHLERS, Lars & WESTKAMP, Alexander, 2011. "Strategy-Proof Tie-Breaking," Cahiers de recherche 2011-07, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  4. Tayfun Sönmez, 2011. "Bidding for Army Career Specialties: Improving the ROTC Branching Mechanism," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 783, Boston College Department of Economics.
  5. Chen, Ning & Li, Mengling, 2013. "Ties matter: improving efficiency in course allocation by introducing ties," MPRA Paper 47031, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Kojima, Fuhito, 2013. "Efficient resource allocation under multi-unit demand," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 1-14.
  7. Jens L. Hougaard & Juan D. Moreno-Ternero & Lars P. Osterdal, 2014. "Assigning agents to a line," Working Papers 14.01, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics.
  8. Daniel Monte & Norovsambuu Tumennasan, 2012. "Centralized Allocation in Multiple Markets," Economics Working Papers 2012-09, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  9. Franz Diebold & Haris Aziz & Martin Bichler & Florian Matthes & Alexander Schneider, 2014. "Course Allocation via Stable Matching," Business & Information Systems Engineering, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 97-110, April.
  10. Wu, Binzhen & Zhong, Xiaohan, 2014. "Matching mechanisms and matching quality: Evidence from a top university in China," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 196-215.
  11. Dobzinski, Shahar & Lavi, Ron & Nisan, Noam, 2012. "Multi-unit auctions with budget limits," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 486-503.
  12. Aziz, Haris & Brandt, Felix & Brill, Markus, 2013. "The computational complexity of random serial dictatorship," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(3), pages 341-345.

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