School Admissions Reform in Chicago and England: Comparing Mechanisms by Their Vulnerability to Manipulation

Parag A. Pathak, Tayfun Sönmez

NBER Working Paper No. 16783
Issued in February 2011
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education, Labor Studies, Public Economics

In Fall 2009, officials from Chicago Public Schools changed their assignment mechanism for coveted spots at selective college preparatory high schools midstream. After asking about 14,000 applicants to submit their preferences for schools under one mechanism, the district asked them re-submit their preferences under a new mechanism. Officials were concerned that "high-scoring kids were being rejected simply because of the order in which they listed their college prep preferences" under the abandoned mechanism. What is somewhat puzzling is that the new mechanism is also manipulable. This paper introduces a method to compare mechanisms based on their vulnerability to manipulation. Under our notion, the old mechanism is more manipulable than the new Chicago mechanism. Indeed, the old Chicago mechanism is at least as manipulable as any other plausible mechanism. A number of similar transitions between mechanisms took place in England after the widely popular Boston mechanism was ruled illegal in 2007. Our approach provides support for these and other recent policy changes involving matching mechanisms.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16783

Published: Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun S�nmez, 2013. "School Admissions Reform in Chicago and England: Comparing Mechanisms by Their Vulnerability to Manipulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(1), pages 80-106, February. citation courtesy of

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