School Choice as a One-Sided Matching Problem: Cardinal Utilities and Optimization


The school choice problem concerns the design and implementation of matching mechanisms that produce school assignments for students within a given public school district. Previously considered criteria for evaluating proposed mechanisms such as stability, strategyproofness and Pareto efficiency do not always translate into desirable student assignments. In this note, we explore a class of one-sided, cardinal utility maximizing matching mechanisms focused exclusively on student preferences. We adapt a well-known combinatorial optimization technique (the Hungarian algorithm) as the kernel of this class of matching mechanisms. We find that, while such mechanisms can be adapted to meet desirable criteria not met by any previously employed mechanism in the school choice literature, they are not strategyproof. We discuss the practical implications and limitations of our approach at the end of the article.