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The Demise of Walk Zones in Boston: Priorities vs. Precedence in School Choice

Author

Listed:
  • Umut M. Dur
  • Scott Duke Kominers
  • Parag A. Pathak
  • Tayfun Sönmez

Abstract

School choice plans in many cities grant students higher priority for some (but not all) seats at their neighborhood schools. This paper demonstrates how the precedence order, i.e. the order in which different types of seats are filled by applicants, has quantitative effects on distributional objectives comparable to priorities in the deferred acceptance algorithm. While Boston's school choice plan gives priority to neighborhood applicants for half of each school's seats, the intended effect of this policy is lost because of the precedence order. Despite widely held impressions about the importance of neighborhood priority, the outcome of Boston's implementation of a 50-50 school split is nearly identical to a system without neighborhood priority. We formally establish that either increasing the number of neighborhood priority seats or lowering the precedence order positions of neighborhood seats at a school have the same effect: an increase in the number of neighborhood students assigned to the school. We then show that in Boston a reversal of precedence with no change in priorities covers almost three-quarters of the range between 0% and 100% neighborhood priority. Therefore, decisions about precedence are inseparable from decisions about priorities. Transparency about these issues--in particular, how precedence unintentionally undermined neighborhood priority--led to the abandonment of neighborhood priority in Boston in 2013.

Suggested Citation

  • Umut M. Dur & Scott Duke Kominers & Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sönmez, 2013. "The Demise of Walk Zones in Boston: Priorities vs. Precedence in School Choice," NBER Working Papers 18981, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18981
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Yeon-Koo Che & Parag A. Pathak & Alvin E. Roth & Olivier Tercieux, 2017. "Minimizing Justified Envy in School Choice: The Design of New Orleans' OneApp," NBER Working Papers 23265, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Caterina Calsamiglia & Chao Fu & Maia Güell, 2014. "Structural Estimation of a Model of School Choices: the Boston Mechanism vs. Its Alternatives," Working Papers 2014-21, FEDEA.
    3. Gabrielle Fack & Julien Grenet & Yinghua He, 2019. "Beyond Truth-Telling: Preference Estimation with Centralized School Choice and College Admissions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(4), pages 1486-1529, April.
    4. 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.
    5. Avery, Christopher & Pathak, Parag A., 2015. "The Distributional Consequences of Public School Choice," Working Paper Series 15-053, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    6. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Weiwei Hu & Parag A. Pathak, 2013. "Small High Schools and Student Achievement: Lottery-Based Evidence from New York City," NBER Working Papers 19576, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Umut Mert Dur & Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sönmez, 2016. "Explicit vs. Statistical Preferential Treatment in Affirmative Action: Theory and Evidence from Chicago’s Exam Schools," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 906, Boston College Department of Economics.
    8. Jörgen Kratz, 2017. "Overlapping multiple object assignments," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 63(3), pages 723-753, March.
    9. André Veski & Péter Biró & Kaire Põder & Triin Lauri, 2017. "Efficiency and fair access in Kindergarten allocation policy design," The Journal of Mechanism and Institution Design, Society for the Promotion of Mechanism and Institution Design, University of York, vol. 2(1), pages 57-104, December.
    10. Esther Duflo, 2017. "Richard T. Ely Lecture: The Economist as Plumber," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 1-26, May.
    11. Battal Dogan & Serhat Dogan & Kemal Yildiz, 2017. "Lexicographic Choice under Variable Capacity Constraints," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'économie 17.02, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, Département d’économie.
    12. Aaron L. Bodoh-Creed, 2020. "Optimizing for Distributional Goals in School Choice Problems," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(8), pages 3657-3676, August.
    13. Kratz, Jörgen, 2014. "Overlapping Multiple Assignments," Working Papers 2014:44, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    14. Fack, Gabrielle & Grenet, Julien & He, Yinghua, 2015. "Beyond Truth-Telling: Preference Estimation with Centralized School Choice," CEPR Discussion Papers 10907, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Federico Echenique & Antonio Miralles & Jun Zhang, 2018. "Fairness and Efficiency for Probabilistic Allocations with Endowments," Working Papers 1055, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    16. Erdil, Aytek & Ergin, Haluk, 2017. "Two-sided matching with indifferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 268-292.
    17. Andre Veski & Kaire Põder, 2015. "Primary School Choice in Tallinn: Data and Simulations," TUT Economic Research Series 20, Department of Finance and Economics, Tallinn University of Technology.
    18. Guillaume Haeringer & Vincent Iehlé, 2014. "Two-sided matching with one-sided preferences," Working Papers halshs-00980794, HAL.
    19. Mehmet Ekmekci & M. Bumin Yenmez, "undated". "Integrating Schools for Centralized Admissions," GSIA Working Papers 2014-E20, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
    20. Parag A. Pathak & Peng Shi, 2014. "Demand Modeling, Forecasting, and Counterfactuals, Part I," NBER Working Papers 19859, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Federico Echenique & M. Bumin Yenmez, 2015. "How to Control Controlled School Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(8), pages 2679-2694, August.
    22. Andre Veski & Kaire Põder, 2016. "Strategies in the Tallinn School Choice Mechanism," Research in Economics and Business: Central and Eastern Europe, Tallinn School of Economics and Business Administration, Tallinn University of Technology, vol. 8(1).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • D50 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - General
    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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