Nobel Prize for Matchmaking

Monday, October 15, 2012

Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley won today's Nobel Prize in Economics for their work on "how to match different agents as well as possible." Roth's work includes how to match NYC 8th graders to their chosen high schools.  Parag Pathak, associate professor of economics at M.I.T., worked with Roth on that and joins us to explain the economics of matchmaking.

→Listen to Alvin Roth explain game theory on The Brian Lehrer Show when Robert Aumann and Thomas Schelling won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics.


Parag Pathak

Comments [8]

Susan from Upper West Side


Our middle school counselors actually told us with great emphasis DO NOT, REPEAT DO NOT LIST A SCHOOL THAT YOU WOULD NOT WANT YOUR CHILD TO ATTEND. Then when we thought we had worked our behinds off trying to come up with a list, sent us off to yet another school to consider and then looked at me blankly when one of the schools that they suggested was one I flat out told them would be a terrible school for our child. My husband has arm twisted me into visiting that 14th school -- even though I pointed out that even if my son did far worse than he has ever done on any of the practice tests for the SHSAT he's likely to get into at least one of the specialized schools so why do we have to add an "iffy" school to the list of screened schools.

The school emphasized online learning and my sister has worked with this for several years now in her high school in California. She has concluded that it does not work for most children, particularly those who are not doing well and that the only children for whom online course work does work well are for those children along the autistic spectrum. I didn't have the heart to tell the counselor my sister's opinion of that type of school. Furthermore, the counselor knew our son is interested in science and that school had a science program that wasn't even as sophisticated as the science offered at the middle school.

Really so much waste of time of everyone involved - administrators, teachers, parents, students. It could all be solved with solid neighborhood high schools. It isn't fair at all because I happen to have a more flexible schedule I can go on all these tours and spend time with my son going over choices and my husband is incredibly organized. My son feels bad for some of his friends who are trying to figure this out on their own because their parents are not really focused on all the steps you have to take to collect the forms and fulfill the different requirements.

Its absurd at the high school level and even absurd at the college level.

The whole thing makes my head ache. And the economist didn't address opportunity costs at all. So I'm disappointed in this segment.

Oct. 15 2012 12:13 PM

We have been thru the high school matching process twice, daughters went to two different NYC Middle schools. We were advised both times NOT TO PUT ANY SCHOOL DOWN ON THE LIST OF 12 NON SPECIALIZED YOU WOULD NOT want your kids to attend.You are not required to rank 12 schools. You want to put down at least 6. Of course, the fewer you put down, the greater the chances of not getting a match, which will put you in the supplementary round, in which hardly any good schools are left. But if you get matched to a school and you don't want it, it practically takes an act of God to get the DOE to change it. Good luck to all going thru this aweful process.

Oct. 15 2012 12:06 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Prof. Pathak put his explanation of the medical match system in terms of men & women. I wonder if it needs any modification to take same-sex marriage into account.

Oct. 15 2012 12:05 PM

As someone who works with parents with complaints about their children's high school matches, I can tell you it is not a fair system. The problem is that since students are forced to rank so many schools, they inevitably have to list schools that they DON'T want to go to, because, as your guest says, their is such a paucity of "good" schools. How is that fair, forcing students to list "bad" schools they really don't want to go to on their applications?

Oct. 15 2012 11:58 AM
Susan from Upper West Side

Wow how pertinent.

I'm going nuts right now with what seems to be a hugely time intensive confusing process. The array of portfolios, and interviews, and assessments and recommendations for screened schools is ridiculous. Is he talking about screened schools or specialized schools.

The specialized schools seem simpler since it is one standardized bubble test -- and since my son does relatively well on these types of tests he'll be fine - but what about kids who don't test well with these tests. But what about La Guardia and all the auditions?

The counselors at my son's school have recommended that we tour an additional school beyond the 13 we already put on our list. What about the opportunity costs that make parents have to look at 14 schools? and the administrative burden of this?

Oct. 15 2012 11:56 AM
John A.

'Given the opportunity, will game the system...'
So close to a technical definition of evil. And by defining, defeating.

Oct. 15 2012 11:55 AM

If this guy talks a little softer I may be able to take a little nap.

Oct. 15 2012 11:53 AM
Shawn from Bergen

How is this system different than a medical residency placement system that has been in use for a long time?

Oct. 15 2012 11:50 AM

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