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Fair and Efficient Assignment via the Probabilistic Serial Mechanism


  • Onur Kesten

    (Carnegie Mellon University)

  • Morimitsu Kurino

    (Maastricht University)

  • M. Utku Ünver

    (Boston College)


This paper studies the problem of assigning a set of indivisible objects to a set of agents when monetary transfers are not allowed. We offer two characterizations of the prominent lottery assignment mechanism called the probabilistic serial. We show that it is the only mechanism satisfying non-wastefulness and ordinal fairness. Our second result shows that a direct ordinal mechanism satisfies ordinal efficiency, envy-freeness, and upper invariance if and only if it is the probabilistic serial.

Suggested Citation

  • Onur Kesten & Morimitsu Kurino & M. Utku Ünver, 2010. "Fair and Efficient Assignment via the Probabilistic Serial Mechanism," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 742, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 30 May 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:742
    Note: previously circulated as "The Probabilistic Serial Assignment Mechanism"

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Roth, Alvin E. & Sonmez, Tayfun & Utku Unver, M., 2005. "Pairwise kidney exchange," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 151-188, December.
    2. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Tayfun Sönmez, 2003. "School Choice: A Mechanism Design Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 729-747, June.
    3. Abdulkadiroglu, Atila & Sonmez, Tayfun, 1999. "House Allocation with Existing Tenants," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 233-260, October.
    4. Tayfun Sönmez & M. Utku Ünver, 2010. "Course Bidding At Business Schools," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(1), pages 99-123, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hougaard, Jens Leth & Moreno-Ternero, Juan D. & Østerdal, Lars Peter, 2014. "Assigning agents to a line," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 539-553.
    2. Heo, Eun Jeong, 2014. "Probabilistic assignment problem with multi-unit demands: A generalization of the serial rule and its characterization," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 40-47.
    3. Bogomolnaia, Anna, 2015. "Random assignment: Redefining the serial rule," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 158(PA), pages 308-318.
    4. Heo, Eun Jeong & Yılmaz, Özgür, 2015. "A characterization of the extended serial correspondence," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 102-110.
    5. repec:eee:matsoc:v:90:y:2017:i:c:p:56-62 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Ünver, M. Utku & Kesten, Onur & Kurino, Morimitsu & Hashimoto, Tadashi & Hirata, Daisuke, 2014. "Two axiomatic approaches to the probabilistic serial mechanism," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 9(1), January.
    7. Eun Heo, 2014. "The extended serial correspondence on a rich preference domain," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 43(2), pages 439-454, May.

    More about this item


    Random assignment; Probabilistic serial; Ordinal efficiency; Fairness;

    JEL classification:

    • C71 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Cooperative Games
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation

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