Doctoral Dissertation Research in Economics: Evolutionary Preference Revelation Dynamics under School Choice Mechanisms
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Children in the United States are traditionally assigned to public schools based on where they live. However, a growing number of public school districts now allow parents to indicate which schools they want their children to attend. Since each school can support only a limited number of students, it is often impossible to give every student her top choice of schools. To resolve such shortages, policy makers employ student assignment mechanisms that assign each student to a school based on the reported preferences over schools and the legally determined student priorities at each school. In this study, we conduct laboratory experiments to investigate dynamic behavior under continuous-time variants of three widely employed school choice mechanisms. In these continuous-time mechanisms, participants adjust their preference reports asynchronously and receive instantaneous feedback regarding their assigned school. By providing considerable opportunity for learning and adjustment, these continuous-time mechanisms can promote rational behavior and achieve higher allocative efficiency. Accordingly, this study can help policy makers to select the best possible school choice mechanism for their district and improve educational outcomes for children who attend public schools.Under manipulable mechanisms, such as the widely employed Boston mechanism, participants frequently have an incentive to strategically misreport their preferences. To encourage truthful preference reports, mechanism designers often employ strategy-proof mechanisms under which participants never have an incentive to misreport preferences, so truthful preference reporting is a weakly dominant strategy. In contrast to these theoretical predictions, previous experimental studies find that even strategy-proof mechanisms frequently fail to induce truthful preference revelation. Unlike previous studies, we consider assignment mechanisms under which participants adjust their preference reports asynchronously and receive instantaneous feedback regarding their assigned school. In particular, we consider continuous-time variations of three widely employed school choice mechanisms: the deferred acceptance mechanism, the top trading cycles mechanism, and the Boston mechanism. Since these continuous-time mechanisms provide considerable opportunity for learning and adjustment, they may promote rational preference revelation behavior, leading to more stable and more efficient outcomes under strategy proof mechanisms.