Theories and experiments on school choice and college admissions

Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, this project its findings have the potential to benefit society by influencing the method by which students are matched with schools and colleges.

Start date: 8/1/2010
End date: 9/30/2013

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This project engaged in theoretical and experimental studies of a family of proposal-refusal school choice mechanisms. The Boston mechanism is one of the most commonly used and prominent school choice algorithms in practice, while the Gale-Shapley mechanism and the modified Boston mechanism have superior theoretical properties. Experimental studies of the college admissions mechanisms used in China were also being conducted.

School choice has been one of the most important and most widely debated topics in the past twenty years. In the current debate on school reform, choice has moved to the top of the national agenda. The Boston mechanism is a prominent algorithm used in several cities pioneering the school choice program, but its performance has not been thoroughly evaluated.

As more states have passed legislation mandating intra- or inter-district choice, this study addressed an urgent need to evaluate this mechanism as well as alternative mechanisms in order to make meaningful policy recommendations. Similarly, college admissions mechanisms in China present a new class of matching problems which influence the education and labor market outcomes of more than 10 million high school seniors every year.

The findings from these studies could potentially guide both theory and practice, regardless of whether the hypotheses are confirmed or rejected, on school choice reform in the U.S. and college admissions reform in China.


Collaborative Research: School Choice and College Admissions: Theory and Experiments, National Science Foundation; $233,468 


The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…"