Demand Analysis using Strategic Reports: An application to a school choice mechanism

Nikhil Agarwal, Paulo Somaini

NBER Working Paper No. 20775
Issued in December 2014, Revised in October 2017
NBER Program(s):   ED   IO

Several school districts use assignment systems that give students an incentive to misrepresent their preferences. We find evidence consistent with strategic behavior in Cambridge. Such strategizing can complicate preference analysis. This paper develops empirical methods for studying random utility models in a new and large class of school choice mechanisms. We show that preferences are non-parametrically identified under either sufficient variation in choice environments or a preference shifter. We then develop a tractable estimation procedure and apply it to Cambridge. Estimates suggest that while 82% of students are assigned to their stated first choice, only 72% are assigned to their true first choice because students avoid ranking competitive schools. Assuming that students behave optimally, the Immediate Acceptance mechanism is preferred by the average student to the Deferred Acceptance mechanism by an equivalent of 0.08 miles. The estimated difference is smaller if beliefs are biased, and reversed if students report truthfully.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


Supplementary materials for this paper:

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20775

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Abdulkadiroglu, Agarwal, and Pathak w21046 The Welfare Effects of Coordinated Assignment: Evidence from the NYC HS Match
Avery, Lee, and Roth w20774 College Admissions as Non-Price Competition: The Case of South Korea
Agarwal w20767 An Empirical Model of the Medical Match
Amiti and Freund The Anatomy of China's Export Growth
Bertanha and Imbens w20773 External Validity in Fuzzy Regression Discontinuity Designs
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us