Cupid’s Invisible Hand: Social Surplus and Identification in Matching Models
88 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2011 Last revised: 19 May 2020
Date Written: May 18, 2020
We investigate a model of one-to-one matching with transferable utility when some of the characteristics of the players are unobservable to the analyst. We allow for a wide class of distributions of unobserved heterogeneity, subject only to a separability assumption that generalizes Choo and Siow (2006). We first show that the stable matching maximizes a social gain function that trades off exploiting complementarities in observable characteristic sand matching on unobserved characteristics. We use this result to derive simple closed-form formulae that identify the joint surplus in every possible match and the equilibrium utilities of all participants, given any known distribution of unobserved heterogeneity. If transfers are observed, then the pre-transfer utilities of both partners are also identified. We discuss computational issues and provide an algorithm that is extremely efficient in important instances. Finally, we present two estimators of the joint surplus and we revisit Choo and Siow's empirical application to illustrate the potential of our more general approach.
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