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Presentation by Inácio Bó about “Designing Heaven's Will: Lessons in Market Design from the Chinese Imperial Civil Servants Match”

On 6th May 2019 (1-2pm) Inácio Bó, postdoctoral research fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), will give a presentation about “Designing Heaven's Will: Lessons in Market Design from the Chinese Imperial Civil Servants Match” in Q4.245. Afterwards, Mr. Bó will be available for questions and discussions. His presentation is part of:

Abstract: Many real-life random assignment problems rely on drawing lots publicly: sports competitions, public housing, etc. Such procedures are favored due to two important characteristics, transparency and simplicity.  In this paper, we describe one such mechanism, which was used for the assignment of civil servants from the late 16th century to early 20th century in China. Based on original documents and historical studies, we provide the first formal description of this procedure: candidates were assigned to jobs through a sequential lottery-based procedure, while at the same time they were prevented to be matched to incompatible jobs. We show that the procedure was inefficient, and document a change made in the 18th century that mitigated these inefficiencies. Based on what we determine to be the characteristics that were necessary for its success, we generalize the procedure used in China to a wider family of assignment problems where workers may have different sets of compatible jobs, and describe how to arrange the sets of urns and workers, so that the resulting random assignment mechanism produces matchings that are always efficient and satisfy equal treatment of equals. We show how to apply the proposed mechanism to real-life problems, such as refugee matching, public housing, and more.


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