Jaimie W. Lien, Jie Zheng and Xiaohan Zhong

Preference Submission Timing in School Choice Matching: Testing Efficiency and Fairness in the Laboratory
Jaimie W. Lien   Jie Zheng   Xiaohan Zhong
We investigate the relative merits of the Boston and Serial Dictatorship mechanisms when the timing of students’ preference submission over schools varies within the structure of the mechanism. Despite the well-documented disadvantages of the Boston mechanism (Abdulkadiroglu and Sonmez, 2003), we propose that a Boston mechanism where students are required to submit their preferences before the realization of their exam scores, can in fact have fairness and efficiency advantages compared to the often favored Serial Dictatorship mechanism. We test these hypotheses in a series of laboratory experiments which vary by the class of mechanism implemented, and the preference submission timing by students, reflecting actual policy changes which have occurred in China. Our experimental findings confirm the efficiency hypothesis straightforwardly, and lend indirect support to the fairness hypothesis. The results have important policy implications for school choice mechanism design when students’ relative rankings are initially uncertain.
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