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The Multi-unit Assignment Problem: Theory and Evidence from Course Allocation at Harvard

  • Eric Budish
  • Estelle Cantillon

This paper uses data consisting of students' strategically reported preferences and their underlying true preferences to study the course allocation mechanism used at Harvard Business School. We show that the mechanism is manipulable in theory, manipulated in practice, and that these manipulations cause meaningful welfare losses. However, we also find that ex-ante welfare is higher than under the strategyproof and ex-post efficient alternative, the Random Serial Dictatorship. We trace the poor ex-ante performance of RSD to a phenomenon specific to multi-unit assignment, "callousness'. We draw lessons for the design of multi-unit assignment mechanisms and for market design more broadly.

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Paper provided by ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles in its series ULB Institutional Repository with number 2013/99376.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Publication status: Published in: The American economic review (2012) v.102 n° 5,p.2237-71
Handle: RePEc:ulb:ulbeco:2013/99376
Contact details of provider: Postal: CP135, 50, avenue F.D. Roosevelt, 1050 Bruxelles
Web page: http://difusion.ulb.ac.be

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  1. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2003. "Robust Mechanism Design," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1421, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  2. Parag A. Pathak & Jay Sethuraman, 2010. "Lotteries in Student Assignment: An Equivalence Result," NBER Working Papers 16140, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ehlers, Lars & Massó, Jordi, 2015. "Matching markets under (in)complete information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 295-314.
  4. Manea, Mihai, 2007. "Serial dictatorship and Pareto optimality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 316-330, November.
  5. Roth, Alvin, 2008. "What Have We Learned from Market Design?," Scholarly Articles 2579650, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. 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.
  7. Nurmi, Hannu, 1996. "Fair division: From cake-cutting to dispute resolution : Steven J. Brams and Alan D. Taylor, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995) pp. xiv + 272, US$ 54.95 (hardcover), US$ 18.95 (paper)," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 169-172, April.
  8. Steven J. Brams & Paul H. Edelman & Peter C. Fishburn, 2003. "Fair Division Of Indivisible Items," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 55(2), pages 147-180, 09.
  9. Yeon-Koo Che & Fuhito Kojima, 2010. "Asymptotic Equivalence of Probabilistic Serial and Random Priority Mechanisms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(5), pages 1625-1672, 09.
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  12. Alvin E. Roth & Elliott Peranson, 1999. "The Redesign of the Matching Market for American Physicians: Some Engineering Aspects of Economic Design," NBER Working Papers 6963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Parag A. Pathak & Alvin E. Roth, 2009. "Strategy-Proofness versus Efficiency in Matching with Indifferences: Redesigning the NYC High School Match," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 1954-78, December.
  14. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Yeon-Koo Che & Yosuke Yasuda, 2010. "Expanding “Choice” in School Choice," Levine's Working Paper Archive 661465000000000062, David K. Levine.
  15. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, June.
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  17. Hideo Konishi & Thomas Quint & Jun Wako, 2000. "On the Shapley-Scarf Economy: The Case of Multiple Types of Indivisible Goods," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 484, Boston College Department of Economics.
  18. 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.
  19. Tayfun Sonmez, 1999. "Strategy-Proofness and Essentially Single-Valued Cores," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(3), pages 677-690, May.
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  26. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521556446 is not listed on IDEAS
  27. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
  28. Peter Coles & Alexey Kushnir & Muriel Niederle, 2010. "Preference Signaling in Matching Markets," NBER Working Papers 16185, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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