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

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  • Eric Budish
  • Estelle Cantillon

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 ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles in its series ULB Institutional Repository with number 2013/99376.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Publication status: Published in: The American economic review (2012) v.102 n° 5,p.2237-71
Handle: RePEc:ulb:ulbeco:2013/99376

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Keywords: Multi-unit assignment; market design; course allocation; random serial dictatorship;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Mariagiovanna Baccara & Ayse Imrohoroglu & Alistair Wilson & Leeat Yariv, 2009. "A Field Study on Matching with Network Externalities," Working Papers, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics 09-13, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  2. Wu, Binzhen & Zhong, Xiaohan, 2014. "Matching mechanisms and matching quality: Evidence from a top university in China," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 196-215.
  3. Kojima, Fuhito, 2013. "Efficient resource allocation under multi-unit demand," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 1-14.
  4. Tayfun Sönmez & Tobias B. Switzer, 2011. "Matching with (Branch-of-Choice) Contracts at United States Military Academy," Boston College Working Papers in Economics, Boston College Department of Economics 782, Boston College Department of Economics.
  5. Jens L. Hougaard & Juan D. Moreno-Ternero & Lars P. Osterdal, 2014. "Assigning agents to a line," Working Papers, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics 14.01, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics.
  6. Franz Diebold & Haris Aziz & Martin Bichler & Florian Matthes & Alexander Schneider, 2014. "Course Allocation via Stable Matching," Business & Information Systems Engineering, Springer, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 97-110, April.
  7. Dobzinski, Shahar & Lavi, Ron & Nisan, Noam, 2012. "Multi-unit auctions with budget limits," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 486-503.
  8. Aziz, Haris & Brandt, Felix & Brill, Markus, 2013. "The computational complexity of random serial dictatorship," Economics Letters, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 121(3), pages 341-345.
  9. Tayfun Sönmez, 2011. "Bidding for Army Career Specialties: Improving the ROTC Branching Mechanism," Boston College Working Papers in Economics, Boston College Department of Economics 783, Boston College Department of Economics.
  10. Chen, Ning & Li, Mengling, 2013. "Ties matter: improving efficiency in course allocation by introducing ties," MPRA Paper 47031, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Daniel Monte & Norovsambuu Tumennasan, 2012. "Centralized Allocation in Multiple Markets," Economics Working Papers, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus 2012-09, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  12. EHLERS, Lars & WESTKAMP, Alexander, 2011. "Strategy-Proof Tie-Breaking," Cahiers de recherche, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques 2011-07, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  13. Carvalho, José-Raimundo & Magnac, Thierry & Xiong, Qizhou, 2014. "College Choice Allocation Mechanisms: Structural Estimates and Counterfactuals," TSE Working Papers, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) 14-506, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).

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