Professor of economics at the University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and fellow of the Tinbergen Institute (Amsterdam) and CESIfo (Munich)
In systems of free school choice, some schools may be oversubscribed while others have empty seats. Many cities around the world, therefore, operate a centralized school assignment mechanism. The most well-known mechanisms are Priority Matching (aka Boston) and Deferred Acceptance (DA; Gale-Shapley). An extensive literature has analyzed the theoretical properties and shows that these two main mechanisms have important advantages and disadvantages. Most importantly, under the Boston mechanism it may be optimal to behave strategically and parents may afterwards regret their choices. Under DA it is optimal to reveal true preferences but it does not give an opportunity to signal the intensity of preferences.
To decide on which mechanism to use, it is important to quantify these differences. We collected a unique data set in Amsterdam that contains information on actual school choices made under (a variant) of the Boston mechanism and information on the cardinal preferences of students over schools. With this data set we: i) obtain an estimate of the degree of strategic behavior under Boston; ii) investigate whether strategic behavior depends on characteristics of students and/or the intensity of preferences; and iii) compare the performance of Boston and DA in terms of ex-ante and ex-post efficiency.