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Changing the Boston School Choice Mechanism

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Listed:
  • Atila Abdulkadiroglu
  • Parag Pathak
  • Alvin E. Roth
  • Tayfun Sonmez

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Parag Pathak & Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun Sonmez, 2006. "Changing the Boston School Choice Mechanism," NBER Working Papers 11965, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11965
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Szilvia Papai, 2000. "Strategyproof Assignment by Hierarchical Exchange," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(6), pages 1403-1434, November.
    2. Roth, Alvin E. & Sonmez, Tayfun & Utku Unver, M., 2005. "Pairwise kidney exchange," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 151-188, December.
    3. 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.
    4. Moulin, Herve & Shenker, Scott, 1992. "Serial Cost Sharing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1009-1037, September.
    5. Ar. Rubinstein., 2008. "Dilemmas of an Economic Theorist," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 11.
    6. 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.
    7. Roth,Alvin E. & Sotomayor,Marilda A. Oliveira, 1992. "Two-Sided Matching," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521437882, Fall.
    8. Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun Sönmez & M. Utku Ünver, 2004. "Kidney Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 457-488.
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    11. 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.
    12. Barbera, Salvador & Jackson, Matthew O. & Neme, Alejandro, 1997. "Strategy-Proof Allotment Rules," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-21, January.
    13. Ergin, Haluk & Sonmez, Tayfun, 2006. "Games of school choice under the Boston mechanism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 215-237, January.
    14. 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.
    15. Sprumont, Yves, 1991. "The Division Problem with Single-Peaked Preferences: A Characterization of the Uniform Allocation Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 509-519, March.
    16. 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.
    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 427-438, March.
    18. Chen, Yan & Sonmez, Tayfun, 2006. "School choice: an experimental study," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 127(1), pages 202-231, March.
    19. John William Hatfield & Paul R. Milgrom, 2005. "Matching with Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 913-935, September.
    20. 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.
    21. Shapley, Lloyd & Scarf, Herbert, 1974. "On cores and indivisibility," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 23-37, March.
    22. Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun Sönmez, 2005. "A Kidney Exchange Clearinghouse in New England," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 376-380, May.
    23. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu, 2005. "College admissions with affirmative action," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 33(4), pages 535-549, November.
    24. 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.
    25. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Parag A. Pathak & Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun Sönmez, 2005. "The Boston Public School Match," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 368-371, May.
    26. 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.
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    28. Balinski, Michel & Sonmez, Tayfun, 1999. "A Tale of Two Mechanisms: Student Placement," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 73-94, January.
    29. Hervé Moulin, 1994. "Serial Cost-Sharing of Excludable Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(2), pages 305-325.
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    32. 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 415-440, June.
    33. Roth, Alvin E., 1982. "Incentive compatibility in a market with indivisible goods," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 127-132.
    34. Groves, Theodore, 1973. "Incentives in Teams," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 617-631, July.
    35. 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.
    36. 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.
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    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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