Smart Matching Platforms and Heterogeneous Beliefs in Centralized School Choice


Many school districts with centralized school choice adopt strategyproof assignment mechanisms to relieve applicants of the need to strategize on the basis of beliefs about their own admissions chances. This paper shows that beliefs about admissions chances shape choice outcomes even when the assignment mechanism is strategyproof by influencing the way applicants search for schools, and that ``smart matching platforms' that provide live feedback on admissions chances help applicants search more effectively. Motivated by a model in which applicants engage in costly search for schools and overoptimism can lead to undersearch, we use data from a large-scale survey of choice participants in Chile to show that learning about schools is hard, that beliefs about admissions chances guide the decision to stop searching, and that applicants systematically underestimate nonplacement risk. We then use RCT and RD research designs to evaluate scaled live feedback policies in the Chilean and New Haven choice systems. 22% of applicants submitting applications where risks of nonplacement are high respond to warnings by adding schools to their lists, reducing nonplacement risk by 58% and increasing test score value added at the schools where they enroll by 0.10 standard deviations. Reducing the burden of school choice requires not just strategyproofness inside the centralized system, but also choice supports for the strategic decisions that inevitably remain outside of it.

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Published Paper - March 2022

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Implementation in Chile

Sequence of Interventions


Implementation in New Haven, CT

New Haven Feedback

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  • Coauthors: Felipe Arteaga, Adam Kapor and Seth Zimmerman
  • Published: The Quarterly Journal of Economics (March 2022)
  • Date: 2022
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