The Secure Boston Mechanism: theory and experiments

  • Umut Dur
  • Robert G. HammondEmail author
  • Thayer Morrill
Original Paper


This paper introduces a new matching mechanism that is a hybrid of the two most common mechanisms in school choice, the Boston Mechanism (BM) and the Deferred Acceptance algorithm (DA). BM is the most commonly used mechanism in the field, but it is neither strategyproof nor fair. DA is the mechanism that is typically favored by economists, but it is not Pareto efficient. The new mechanism, the Secure Boston Mechanism (sBM), is an intuitive modification of BM that secures any school a student was initially guaranteed but otherwise prioritizes a student at a school based upon how she ranks it. Relative to BM, theoretical results suggest that sBM is an improvement in terms of strategyproofness and fairness. We present experimental evidence using a novel experimental design that confirms that sBM significantly increases truth-telling and fairness. Relative to DA, theoretical results suggest that sBM can be a Pareto improvement in equilibrium but the efficiency comparison of sBM and DA is theoretically ambiguous. We present simulation evidence that suggests that sBM often does Pareto dominate DA when DA is inefficient, while sBM and DA very often overlap when DA is efficient. Overall, our results strongly support the use of sBM over BM and suggest that sBM should be considered as a viable alternative to DA.


School choice Student assignment Preference manipulations Lab experiments 

JEL Classification

C78 D61 D78 I20 



We thank Zhiyi (Alicia) Xu for excellent research assistance; the editor, two referees, and Inacio Bo for comments, seminar participants at the 2014 INFORMS Conference, 2015 MATCH UP Conference, 2015 AMMA Conference, 2015 ESA Conference, Georgia State University, National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Davidson College, and Academia Sinica for comments; and the Faculty Research and Professional Development Grant fund for financial support.


The funding was provided by Internal research budget.

Supplementary material

10683_2018_9594_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (389 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 389 kb)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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