Structural Estimation of a Model of School Choices: The Boston Mechanism vs. Its Alternatives

Authors: Caterina Calsamiglia, Chao Fu and Maia Güell

Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 128, No 2, February, 2020

An important debate centers on what procedure should be used to allocate students across public schools. We contribute to this debate by developing and estimating a model of school choices by households under one of the most popular procedures known as the Boston mechanism (BM). We recover the joint distribution of household preferences and sophistication types using administrative data from Barcelona. Our counterfactual policy analyses show that a change from BM to the Gale-Shapley student deferred acceptance mechanism would create more losers than winners, while a change from BM to the top trading cycles mechanism has the opposite effect.

This paper originally appeared as Barcelona School of Economics Working Paper 811