The performance of school assignment mechanisms in practice

Monique de Haan and Pieter Gautier and Hessel Oosterbeek and Bas van der Klaauw

Theory points to a potential trade-off between two main school assignment mechanisms: Boston and Deferred Acceptance (DA). While DA is strategy- proof and gives a stable matching, Boston might outperform DA in terms of ex-ante efficiency. We quantify the trade-offs between the mechanisms by using information about actual choices under (adaptive) Boston complemented with survey data eliciting students’ school preferences. We find that under Boston around 8% of the students apply in the first round to another school than their most-preferred school. We compare allocations resulting from Boston with DA with single tie-breaking (one central lottery; DA-STB) and multi- ple tie-breaking (separate lottery per school; DA-MTB). DA-STB places more students in their top-n schools, for any n, than Boston. DA-STB and Boston place more students in their single most-preferred school than DA-MTB, but fewer in their top-n, for n > 1. In terms of ex-ante efficiency, a majority of students is better off under Boston than under DA, while average wel- fare is higher (equivalent to a reduction in the home-school distance by 10 percent) under DA-STB than under Boston. Finally, students from disadvan- taged backgrounds benefit most from a switch from Boston to one of the DA mechanisms.

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