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 over-optimism can lead to under-search, 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 non-placement risk. We then use RCT and RD research designs to evaluate live feedback policies in the Chilean and New Haven choice systems. 22% of applicants submitting applications where risks of non-placement are high respond to warnings by adding schools to their lists, reducing non-placement risk by 58%. These results replicate across settings and over time. Reducing the strategic 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.
A growing body of evidence shows that diﬀerences in ﬁrm-speciﬁc pay premiums account for a large share of the gender pay gap. This paper asks how a common form of pre-labor market skill specialization, college major, mediates access to high-paying ﬁrms, and what this means for the gender earnings gap. Using employer-employee tax data from Chile matched to educational records, we show that diﬀerences in college major account for more than two-thirds of the ﬁrm contribution to the gender earnings gap among college admits. Degrees in Technology, which are numerous, male-dominated, and associated with high ﬁrm premiums, drive these eﬀects.
This paper introduces a simple school choice model in which all students have the same ordinal preferences over schools but only some have access to an outside option. Our model predicts that, under a manipulable school choice mechanism, students with the outside option are more likely to apply to popular schools. We show that while students with the outside option beneﬁt from manipulable systems, students without the outside option may experience either welfare gains or welfare losses. We evaluate the positive predictions of the model using a diﬀerence-in-diﬀerences design that leverages a change from the Boston mechanism to a deferred acceptance mechanism in the New Haven, Connecticut school district. Consistent with the theoretical predictions, students with an outside option are more likely to list popular, highly-rated schools under the manipulable mechanism, but this gap disappears after the switch to the deferred acceptance mechanism.
This paper studies how welfare outcomes in centralized school choice depend on the assignment mechanism when participants are not fully informed. Using a survey of school choice
participants in a strategic setting, we show that beliefs about admissions chances differ from
rational expectations values and predict choice behavior. To quantify the welfare costs of belief
errors, we estimate a model of school choice that incorporates subjective beliefs. We evaluate
the equilibrium effects of switching to a strategy-proof deferred acceptance algorithm, and of
improving households' belief accuracy. Allowing for belief errors reverses the welfare comparison
to favor the deferred acceptance algorithm.