Parag Pathak

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Parag A. Pathak
Born (1980-06-08) June 8, 1980 (age 38)
InstitutionMassachusetts Institute of Technology
FieldMarket design
Game theory
Alma materHarvard University
Alvin E. Roth[1]
Gabriel Carroll[2]
AwardsJohn Bates Clark Medal (2018)
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Parag A. Pathak (born c. 1980) is Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research where he co-founded and directs the working group on market design.[3]


Pathak grew up in Corning, New York. His parents emigrated to the United States from Kathmandu, Nepal. Pathak was educated at Harvard University where he received a Bachelor's and master's degrees in Applied Mathematics (summa cum laude) and PhD in Business Economics in 2007 with the support of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.[4] From 2002-2003, Pathak served as a visiting fellow at the University of Toulouse where he studied under Jean Tirole, the 2014 winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Pathak served as a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows.[5] He joined the MIT faculty in 2008, and was voted tenure two years later in 2010 at the age of 30.

At MIT, Pathak co-founded and serves as Director of the School Effectiveness & Inequality Initiative, a group of economists who study the economics of education and the connections between human capital and the American income distribution.[6]

Pathak is an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and a recipient of a 2012 Presidential Early Career for Scientists and Engineers by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In 2012, he was selected to give the Shapley Lecture,[7] a lecture in honor of Lloyd Shapley given by a distinguished game theorist aged 40 or under at the 4th World Congress of the Game Theory Society.[8] In 2018 he was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, for his work that "blends institutional knowledge, theoretical sophistication, and careful empirical analysis to provide insights that are of immediate value to important public-policy issues.”[9][10]


Market design[edit]

A protege of 2012 Nobel Prize winner Alvin E. Roth, Pathak is best known for his work in market design. He is a leader in the recent push to apply engineering methods to microeconomics.[3] As a graduate student, Pathak worked with Roth to design the algorithm underlying the system used to match New York City public school students to high schools as incoming freshman.[11]

Around the same time, he worked together with Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Roth, and Tayfun Sönmez to design a new student assignment system for Boston Public Schools, which was adopted in 2005. The team of economists identified parents in Boston who developed heuristics on how to play this real-world game so that their children would not be unassigned, leaving those unaware of these features disadvantaged.[12]

Boston held citywide discussions and hearings on the school selection system and finally in 2005 narrowed the choice to one of two mechanisms: the top trading cycles mechanism for schools and the student-optimal stable mechanism based on the stable marriage problem. Eventually, Boston adopted the student-optimal stable mechanism. The policy change was the first time an incentive compatible strategyproof mechanism, based on an abstract concept from mechanism design, played a role in a public policy discussion.[13] This work was recognized in the 2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences awarded to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd Shapley ``for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.

Since then, a number of other districts have abandoned Boston's old mechanism. In 2007, through an act of Parliament, British authorities outlawed the use of First Preference First arrangements, which made Boston's old method of school assignment illegal throughout 150 English districts.[14]

Pathak continues to be involved with the Boston school choice plan. In 2012, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino asked for Pathak's help by appointing him the Technical Advisor to the Boston School Choice Plan. The city embarked on a discussion of several alternative zone plans, including the complete elimination of school choice, and Mayor Menino commissioned a report evaluating the alternative proposals. This frustrated some groups because it delayed citywide discussions about Boston's choice plan.[15] After the report was released, some parent groups were unhappy even though it made no recommendations.[16] In 2013, the school committee adopted a proposal developed by one of Pathak's graduate student. The proposal was controversial and seen as complicated. Nonetheless, members of the Boston school committee voted for it because it was the best compromise between competing objectives.[17]

Pathak helped to design the OneApp common enrollment system used in the Recovery School District in New Orleans in 2011, involving a collaboration of assignment processes between charter schools and traditional public schools. [18]

Education reform[edit]

Pathak is also a leading scholar in education reform. He is most well known for numerous studies of charter schools which use randomness in assignment lotteries to deal with differences between charter and traditional students. One study compares Boston's charter, pilot and traditional schools, and finds Boston's charter schools to be unusually effective.[19] A report by the Boston Teacher's Union criticized the report, claiming that they could not generalize the methodology to less-popular schools without waiting lists.[20]

He also conducted the first such study of a KIPP charter school.[21] Work with Joshua Angrist finds that charter schools outside of urban areas are not particularly effective.[22]

Another study considers the effects of Boston's charter schools on college enrollment and persistence.[23]

A more controversial study examines the effects of Boston and New York's exam schools (Bronx Science, Boston Latin School, Stuyvesant High School) finding that the high achievement of these students is not due to the school, but to the school's admissions process.[24] Even though they continue to remain popular among parents, the Washington Post's Jay Mathews wondered if exam schools are even needed based on the study.[25]


Pathak has also studied the effect of home foreclosures on home prices in their surrounding neighborhood. This work has been cited in congressional testimony and featured in several outlets including PBS[26] and NPR.[27]


  1. ^ Essays on real -life allocation problems
  2. ^ "Carroll's Curriculum Vitae" (PDF).
  3. ^ a b "Market Design (MD)".
  4. ^ "Parag Pathak, 2003". P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Newsmakers".
  6. ^ "Parag Pathak".
  7. ^ "Games 2012, Istanbul Bilgi University".
  8. ^ "Shapley Lecture".
  9. ^ "MIT's Pathak, School-Choice Scholar, Wins Young-Economist Award". 2018-04-20. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  10. ^ "Parag Pathak, Clark Medalist 2018". American Economic Association. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  11. ^ Pathak, Parag; Atila Abdulkadiroğlu; Alvin Roth (2005). "The New York City High School Match". American Economic Review. 95 (2): 364–367.
  12. ^ Pathak, Parag; Tayfun Sonmez (2008). "Leveling the Playing Field: Sincere and Sophisticated Players in the Boston Mechanism". American Economic Review. 98 (4): 1636–1652. doi:10.1257/aer.98.4.1636.
  13. ^ Sonmez, Tayfun; Atila Abdulkadiroglu; Parag Pathak; Alvin E. Roth (2006). "Changing the Boston Mechanism". NBER Working Paper Series.
  14. ^ Sonmez, Tayfun; Pathak, Parag (February 2013). "School Admissions Reform in Chicago and England: Comparing Mechanisms by their Vulnerability to Manipulation". American Economic Review. 103 (1): 80–106. doi:10.1257/aer.103.1.80.
  15. ^ Vaznis, James. "Boston school-choice recommendations delayed". The Boston Globe.
  16. ^ Parent Imperfect. "I got algo-rhythm, who could ask for anything more?". Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  17. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q. (March 12, 2013). "No Division Required in This School Problem". New York Times.
  18. ^ "Centralized enrollment in Recovery School District gets first tryout". Times Picayune.
  19. ^ Abdulkadiroğlu, Atila; Angrist, Joshua D.; Dynarski, Susan M.; Kane, Thomas J.; Pathak, Parag A. (2011). "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters And Pilots". Quarterly Journal of Economics. 126 (2): 699–748. doi:10.1093/qje/qjr017.
  20. ^ Skinner. "Charter School Success or Selective Out-Migration of Low Achievers?" (PDF). Center for Education Policy and Practice.
  21. ^ Angrist, Joshua D.; Dynarski, Susan M.; Kane, Thomas J.; Pathak, Parag A.; Walters, Christopher R. (1 February 2010). "Who Benefits from KIPP?" – via National Bureau of Economic Research.
  22. ^ Zubrzycki, Jaclyn. "Studies Find Charters Vary in Quality, Creativity". Education Week.
  23. ^ Vaznis, Jamie. "Charter schools in Boston score higher on key tests". Boston Globe.
  24. ^ Kix, Paul. "What exam schools can't do". Boston Globe.
  25. ^ Matthews, Jay (August 14, 2011). "Exclusive high schools: Who needs them?". Washington Post. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Researchers Quantify The Foreclosure Effect". 25 July 2010.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Dave Donaldson
Recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal
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