Friday, November 20, 2009

Harvard housing

Harvard sophomores, juniors and seniors are assigned housing randomly, with some details that require strategic thinking. The objective seems to be to make the Harvard undergraduate houses fairly homogeneous (while allowing friends to form small groups). But it wasn't always so.

An unpublished paper that recounts some of the history, and the previous market designs for housing allocation, is THE HARVARD HOUSING LOTTERY: RATIONALITY AND REFORM, by Susan M. Collins and Kala Krishna

It's an interesting read, and an important kind of market design paper. Rules are data, and histories of rule changes, and how they succeed and fail, are often one of the clearest windows through which to view the obstacles that allocation processes have to overcome to work well.

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