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Changing the Boston School Choice Mechanism

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

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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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. Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun Sönmez & M. Utku Ünver, 2004. "Kidney Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 457-488, May.
  2. Kelso, Alexander S, Jr & Crawford, Vincent P, 1982. "Job Matching, Coalition Formation, and Gross Substitutes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1483-1504, November.
  3. 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.
  4. Alvin E. Roth, 2002. "The Economist as Engineer: Game Theory, Experimentation, and Computation as Tools for Design Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1341-1378, July.
  5. Paul Milgrom, 2003. "Matching with Contracts," Working Papers 03003, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  6. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Tayfun Smez, 2003. "School Choice: A Mechanism Design Approach," Discussion Papers 0203-18, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  7. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Parag A. Pathak & Alvin E. Roth, 2005. "The New York City High School Match," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 364-367, May.
  8. Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun Sonmez & M. Utku Unver, 2004. "Pairwise Kidney Exchange," NBER Working Papers 10698, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Yan Chen & Tayfun Sönmez, 2004. "School Choice: An Experimental Study," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 622, Boston College Department of Economics.
  10. 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, vol. 92(6), pages 991-1016, December.
  11. Muriel Niederle & Alvin E. Roth, 2003. "Unraveling Reduces Mobility in a Labor Market: Gastroenterology with and without a Centralized Match," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(6), pages 1342-1352, December.
  12. Shapley, Lloyd & Scarf, Herbert, 1974. "On cores and indivisibility," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 23-37, March.
  13. Ariel Rubinstein, 2006. "Dilemmas of an Economic Theorist," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(4), pages 865-883, 07.
  14. Haluk Ergin & Tayfun Sönmez, 2005. "Games of School Choice under the Boston Mechanism," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 619, Boston College Department of Economics.
  15. Elliott Peranson & Alvin E. Roth, 1999. "The Redesign of the Matching Market for American Physicians: Some Engineering Aspects of Economic Design," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 748-780, September.
  16. Roth, Alvin E. & Sotomayor, Marilda, 1992. "Two-sided matching," Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, in: R.J. Aumann & S. Hart (ed.), Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 16, pages 485-541 Elsevier.
  17. Green, Jerry & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1977. "Characterization of Satisfactory Mechanisms for the Revelation of Preferences for Public Goods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(2), pages 427-38, March.
  18. Alvin E. Roth & Uriel G. Rothblum, 1999. "Truncation Strategies in Matching Markets--In Search of Advice for Participants," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(1), pages 21-44, January.
  19. Groves, Theodore, 1973. "Incentives in Teams," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 617-31, July.
  20. Salvador Barbera & Matthew O. Jackson, 1993. "Strategy-Proof Exchange," Discussion Papers 1021, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  21. Szilvia Papai, 2000. "Strategyproof Assignment by Hierarchical Exchange," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(6), pages 1403-1434, November.
  22. Roth, Alvin E., 1985. "The college admissions problem is not equivalent to the marriage problem," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 277-288, August.
  23. Balinski, Michel & Sonmez, Tayfun, 1999. "A Tale of Two Mechanisms: Student Placement," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 73-94, January.
  24. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Parag A. Pathak & Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun S�nmez, 2005. "The Boston Public School Match," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 368-371, May.
  25. Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun S�nmez, 2005. "A Kidney Exchange Clearinghouse in New England," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 376-380, May.
  26. 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, vol. 115(1), pages 201-235, February.
  27. Sprumont, Yves, 1991. "The Division Problem with Single-Peaked Preferences: A Characterization of the Uniform Allocation Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 509-19, March.
  28. 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, vol. 81(3), pages 415-40, June.
  29. Salvador Barbera, 1995. "Strategy-Proof Allotment Rules," Discussion Papers 1142, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  30. Moulin, Herve & Shenker, Scott, 1992. "Serial Cost Sharing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1009-37, September.
  31. Muriel Niederle & Alvin E. Roth, 2005. "The Gastroenterology Fellowship Market: Should There Be a Match?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 372-375, May.
  32. 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.
  33. 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, vol. 10(2), pages 187-217, April.
  34. Roth, Alvin E., 1982. "Incentive compatibility in a market with indivisible goods," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 127-132.
  35. Abdulkadiroglu, Atila & Sonmez, Tayfun, 1999. "House Allocation with Existing Tenants," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 233-260, October.
  36. Moulin, Herve, 1994. "Serial Cost-Sharing of Excludable Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(2), pages 305-25, April.
  37. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu, 2005. "College admissions with affirmative action," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 535-549, November.
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