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People: School Matchmaker Wins Nobel In Economics

image from media.nola.comAs you may have heard, one of this year's Nobel laureates in economics is Al Roth, currently at Stanford, who among many other things has helped several school districts figure out how best to match parent preferences and school spots in places like Boston and New York City -- formally called "market design." (Getting to know Al Roth).  I know, I know, economists are the bane of education policy.  But hey, at least it wasn't Fryer (joke!).

Roth works on markets for kidneys, tailors, and med school applications, but he's got a fascinating blog that touches on school district choice issues pretty regularly. Like Lucy Bernholz's blog on philanthropy, it's visually ugly (Blogspot!) but full of much more insight and expertise than a 100 of the education blogs you probably read. Some recent posts:  School choice in the news again in BostonNew zones in Boston Public School choiceNew Orleans School Choice: bringing one application process to all schoolsForecasting school enrollment in Los Angeles.

I emailed a bit with him last year, and he was kind enough to share some papers that you might find interesting (see below).

Some of our early work is described in papers that aren’t too hard to read: see the first two papers linked below. 

Abdulkadiroglu, Atila , Parag A. Pathak, and Alvin E. Roth, "The New York City High School Match," American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, 95,2, May, 2005, 364-367.


·        Abdulkadiroglu, AtilaParag A. Pathak, Alvin E. Roth, and Tayfun SonmezThe Boston Public School Match," American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, 95,2, May, 2005, 368-371.


A paper that’s a bit harder to read because it’s mostly directed to economists is this one below, but it has lots of detail about NYC, particularly at the end.


Abdulkadiroglu, Atila , Parag A. Pathak, and Alvin E. Roth, "Strategy-proofness versus Efficiency in Matching with Indifferences: Redesigning the NYC High School Match,'' American Economic Review, 99, 5, Dec. 2009, pp1954-1978.  


In terms of press, here are two articles written for a broad audience interested in education and mathematics, respectively. MATCHMAKING: ENABLING MANDATORY PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE IN NEW YORK AND BOSTON , By Thomas Toch and Chad Aldeman, andSchool Choice by Joseph Malkevitch. Here's an August 2010 article about me in Forbes that focuses on school choice in NYC.


Here is a self-updating link to my blog posts on school choice


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The Boston story should be cautionary about the dangers of government official overreach in relation to family school choices: exceed limits, try to force changes upon people who have other choices, and see how badly you can ruin a school system and a city. You can achieve equity by making every school bad, but that can't be anyone's goal. In practice, while trying to make educational offerings appealing to everyone and as fair as possible, planners are probably well advised to plan their appeals first to those who have the most choices, realizing that if they attract those highly desirable families, they will maintain their schools' funding base and community buy-in, and then will have a comparatively easy time attracting those who have historically been discriminated against and gotten a bad deal.

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