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Simultaneous Search

  • Hector Chade
  • Lones Smith

We introduce and solve a new class of static portfolio choice problems, where only the best realized alternative matters. A decision maker must simultaneously choose among independent ranked options, and the better alternatives have a lower chance of panning out. Each choice is costly, and just one option may be exercised. This often emerges in practice: (i) A student must make a costly and simultaneous application to many colleges, and is accepted with smaller chances by the better schools; (ii) An economics department must decide which of several PhD job candidates to fly out, and the better recruits will be available with smaller probability. We show that this problem entails maximizing a submodular function of finite sets --- which is NP hard in general. Still, we develop a marginal improvement algorithm that produces the optimal set in a quadratic number of steps. Applying it, we then show that the optimal choices are less risky than the sequentially optimal ones in Weitzman (1979), but riskier than the best singleton college choices. We also give practical rules of thumb, such as: (i) don't insure, choosing a safety school; instead, take risks; (ii) apply to an upwardly diverse portfolio of schools

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Paper provided by in its series NajEcon Working Paper Reviews with number 172782000000000033.

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Date of creation: 29 Mar 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cla:najeco:172782000000000033
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  1. Albrecht, James & Gautier, Pieter A. & Vroman, Susan, 2003. "Equilibrium Directed Search with Multiple Applications," IZA Discussion Papers 719, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Hector Chade & Lones Smith, 2006. "Simultaneous Search," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1556, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. M. L. Weitzman, 1978. "Optimal Search for the Best Alternative," Working papers 214, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Kenneth Burdett & Shouyong Shi & Randall Wright, 2001. "Pricing and Matching with Frictions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(5), pages 1060-1085, October.
  5. 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.
  6. George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213.
  7. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-69, July.
  8. Gul, Faruk & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1999. "Walrasian Equilibrium with Gross Substitutes," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 95-124, July.
  9. Milgrom, Paul & Shannon, Chris, 1994. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(1), pages 157-80, January.
  10. Hector Chade & Greg Lewis & Lones Smith, 2006. "The College Admissions Problem Under Uncertainty," 2006 Meeting Papers 125, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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