Thursday, March 19, 2009

Match Day for new doctors

Today is the third Thursday in March, Match Day for young doctors seeking their first job through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP).

Here is the NRMP press release. Almost 30,000 applicants (11,000 from foreign medical schools) sought the 22,427 first year positions available in this year's match. About 95% of the available positions were filled through the match, the rest are filled in a post-match "scramble." (The organization of the scramble is under discussion, and here's the WSJ's account of it.)

The NY Times covers match day with a story and a picture: A Medical Student’s Rite of Passage . As in many discussions of labor markets, the author finds that many medical students wish they had more control over where they are going. Some of them attribute this loss of control to the match process, while others know something about how the medical market worked before the match. (Among the online comments on the story is this one:
"I wish they did something like this for law students. The job experiences and training available to new lawyers are extremely uneven. Plus it is on the law student to secure that first job on the open market, with no real guarantees of getting hired."

There's a new book by Brian Eule, Match Day: One Day and One Dramatic Year in the Lives of Three New Doctors, that follows three women through the match, one of them now his wife. I haven't seen the book yet, but I talked to him a number of times while he was writing it, and he once gamely sat through a lecture in my Market Design class.

788 couples went through the match this year as couples (some others may go through without identifying themselves that way, and the NY Times story remarks that some were disappointed not to have gotten jobs together). For the technically inclined, here's an account of how the new couples algorithm works to allow couples to express their preferences over pairs of jobs (and of the design process that led to the new match algorithm that's been in use since 1998):
Roth, A. E. and Elliott Peranson, "The Redesign of the Matching Market for American Physicians: Some Engineering Aspects of Economic Design," American Economic Review, 89, 4, September, 1999, 748-780.


Anonymous said...

Had to comment on this post--when I was an undergrad at Harvard I remember thinking how awesome the match system was (it was purely abstract for me, as I was an Econ major).

Now, as my girlfriend prepares to go through the match (next year), I realize that I will either have to move to wherever she gets matched, or I will have to find a new job first and she will have to apply to only one area--there is no "couples" matching when one partner is not a medical student!

I am willing to believe that the system, on the whole, works well, and that it's better than what came before, but it leaves a lot to be desired--I'm curious why this is one of few markets in the country that work this way?

(Besides antitrust reasons. And what's up with that, anyways? This system fosters competition in the ways it was designed to, but schools can't, for example, offer different salaries to different students, at least as I understand it.)

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am willing to believe that the program, on the whole, performs well, and that it's better than what came before, but it results in a lot to be desired--I'm interested why this is one of few marketplaces in the nation that perform this way?
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