Changing the Boston School Choice Mechanism

59 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2006 Last revised: 12 Sep 2010

See all articles by Atila Abdulkadiroglu

Atila Abdulkadiroglu

Duke University - Department of Economics

Parag A. Pathak

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Alvin E. Roth

HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Tayfun Sonmez

Boston College - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2006

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

Abdulkadiroglu, Atila and Pathak, Parag A. and Roth, Alvin E. and Sonmez, Tayfun Oguz, Changing the Boston School Choice Mechanism (January 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w11965. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=878052

Atila Abdulkadiroglu

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

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

Parag A. Pathak

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
E52-391
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Alvin E. Roth (Contact Author)

HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-5447 (Phone)
617-496-7379 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Tayfun Oguz Sonmez

Boston College - Department of Economics ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
54
Abstract Views
912
rank
381,342
PlumX Metrics