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Research Design Meets Market Design: Using Centralized Assignment for Impact Evaluation


  • Atila Abdulkadiroğlu
  • Joshua D. Angrist
  • Yusuke Narita
  • Parag A. Pathak


A growing number of school districts use centralized assignment mechanisms to allocate school seats in a manner that reflects student preferences and school priorities. Many of these assignment schemes use lotteries to ration seats when schools are oversubscribed. The resulting random assignment opens the door to credible quasi‐experimental research designs for the evaluation of school effectiveness. Yet the question of how best to separate the lottery‐generated randomization integral to such designs from non‐random preferences and priorities remains open. This paper develops easily‐implemented empirical strategies that fully exploit the random assignment embedded in a wide class of mechanisms, while also revealing why seats are randomized at one school but not another. We use these methods to evaluate charter schools in Denver, one of a growing number of districts that combine charter and traditional public schools in a unified assignment system. The resulting estimates show large achievement gains from charter school attendance. Our approach generates efficiency gains over ad hoc methods, such as those that focus on schools ranked first, while also identifying a more representative average causal effect. We also show how to use centralized assignment mechanisms to identify causal effects in models with multiple school sectors.

Suggested Citation

  • Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Joshua D. Angrist & Yusuke Narita & Parag A. Pathak, 2017. "Research Design Meets Market Design: Using Centralized Assignment for Impact Evaluation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 85, pages 1373-1432, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:85:y:2017:i::p:1373-1432

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Thierry Magnac, 2018. "Quels étudiants pour quelles universités ? Analyses empiriques de mécanismes d’allocation centralisée," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 69(5), pages 683-708.
    2. M. Fort & A. Ichino & G. Zanella, 2016. "Cognitive and non-cognitive costs of daycare 0–2 for girls," Working Papers wp1056, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    3. Sarah Cohodes & Elizabeth Setren & Christopher R. Walters, 2019. "Can Successful Schools Replicate? Scaling Up Boston’s Charter School Sector," NBER Working Papers 25796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Adam J. Kapor & Christopher A. Neilson & Seth D. Zimmerman, 2020. "Heterogeneous Beliefs and School Choice Mechanisms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(5), pages 1274-1315, May.
    5. Andrew Eyles & Stephen Machin, 2019. "The Introduction of Academy Schools to England's Education," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 1107-1146.
    6. Grenet, Julien & He, Yinghua & Kübler, Dorothea, 2019. "Decentralizing centralized matching markets: Implications from early offers in university admissions," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2019-208, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    7. Regan-Stansfield, Joseph, 2018. "Does greater primary school autonomy improve pupil attainment? Evidence from primary school converter academies in England✰," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 167-179.
    8. Yusuki Narita, 2016. "(Non)Randomization: A Theory of Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of School Quality," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2056R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Aug 2017.
    9. Yusuke Narita, 2018. "Experiment-as-Market: Incorporating Welfare into Randomized Controlled Trials," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2127r, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised May 2019.
    10. Gorman, Emma & Walker, Ian, 2020. "Heterogeneous Effects of Missing out on a Place at a Preferred Secondary School in England," IZA Discussion Papers 13167, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Nikhil Agarwal & Paulo J. Somaini, 2019. "Revealed Preference Analysis of School Choice Models," NBER Working Papers 26568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Will Dobbie & Roland G. Fryer, 2016. "Charter Schools and Labor Market Outcomes," Working Papers 600, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    13. Lincove, Jane Arnold & Valant, Jon & Cowen, Joshua M., 2018. "You can't always get what you want: Capacity constraints in a choice-based school system," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 94-109.
    14. Aue, Robert & Bach, Maximilian & Heigle, Julia & Klein, Thilo & Pfeiffer, Friedhelm & Zapp, Kristina, 2020. "The implication of school admission rules for segregation and educational inequality: Research report," ZEW Expertises, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research, number 223254.
    15. Alvin E. Roth & Robert B. Wilson, 2019. "How Market Design Emerged from Game Theory: A Mutual Interview," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 33(3), pages 118-143, Summer.
    16. Yusuki Narita, 2016. "(Non)Randomization: A Theory of Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of School Quality," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2056, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    17. Lee, Ying-Ying, 2018. "Efficient propensity score regression estimators of multivalued treatment effects for the treated," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 204(2), pages 207-222.
    18. Cook, Jason B., 2018. "Race-Blind Admissions, School Segregation, and Student Outcomes: Evidence from Race-Blind Magnet School Lotteries," IZA Discussion Papers 11909, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    19. Erica M. Field & Leigh L. Linden & Ofer Malamud & Daniel Rubenson & Shing-Yi Wang, 2019. "Does Vocational Education Work? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Mongolia," NBER Working Papers 26092, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Will S. Dobbie & Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2016. "Charter Schools and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 22502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Yusuke Narita, 2018. "Toward an Ethical Experiment," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2127, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    22. Marin Drlje, 2020. "Identification of School Admission Effects Using Propensity Scores Based on a Matching Market Structure," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp658, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    23. Joshua D. Angrist & Parag A. Pathak & Román Andrés Zárate, 2019. "Choice and Consequence: Assessing Mismatch at Chicago Exam Schools," NBER Working Papers 26137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    24. Bergman, Peter, 2018. "The Risks and Benefits of School Integration for Participating Students: Evidence from a Randomized Desegregation Program," IZA Discussion Papers 11602, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C26 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Instrumental Variables (IV) Estimation
    • D47 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Market Design
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General


    This item is featured on the following reading lists, Wikipedia, or ReplicationWiki pages:
    1. Research Design Meets Market Design: Using Centralized Assignment for Impact Evaluation (ECTA 2017) in ReplicationWiki


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