Resolving Conflicting Preferences in School Choice: The 'Boston' Mechanism Reconsidered

20 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2009  

Atila Abdulkadiroglu

Duke University - Department of Economics

Yeon-Koo Che

Columbia University

Yosuke Yasuda

Osaka University - Graduate School of Economics; National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 15, 2009

Abstract

The Boston mechanism is among the most popular school choice procedures in use. Yet, the mechanism has been criticized for its poor incentive and welfare performances, which led the Boston Public Schools to recently replace it with Gale and Shapley's deferred acceptance algorithm (henceforth, DA). The DA elicits truthful revelation of "ordinal" preferences whereas the Boston mechanism does not; but the latter induces participants to reveal their "cardinal" preferences (i.e., their relative preference intensities) whereas the former does not. We show that cardinal preferences matter more when families have similar ordinal preferences and schools have coarse priorities, two common features of many school choice environments. Specifically, when students have the same ordinal preferences and schools have no priorities, the Boston mechanism Pareto dominates the DA in ex ante welfare. The Boston mechanism may not harm but rather benefit participants who may not strategize well. In the presence of school priorities, the Boston mechanism also tends to facilitate a greater access than the DA to good schools by those lacking priorities at those schools. These results contrast with the standard view, and cautions against a hasty rejection of the Boston mechanism in favor of mechanisms such as the DA.

Keywords: the Boston mechanism, Gale-Shapley's deferred acceptance algorithm, conflicts of preferences, cardinal preferences, ex ante Pareto efficiency

JEL Classification: C72, C78, D61, D78, I20

Suggested Citation

Abdulkadiroglu, Atila and Che, Yeon-Koo and Yasuda, Yosuke, Resolving Conflicting Preferences in School Choice: The 'Boston' Mechanism Reconsidered (August 15, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1456088 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1456088

Atila Abdulkadiroglu

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Yeon-Koo Che (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027

Yosuke Yasuda

Osaka University - Graduate School of Economics ( email )

1-7 Machikaneyama
Toyonaka, Osaka, 560-0043
Japan

National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) ( email )

7-22-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Tokyo 106-8677
Japan

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/yosukeyasuda/Home

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