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Reversing Reserves

Parag Pathak, Alex Rees-Jones and Tayfun Sönmez

No 995, Boston College Working Papers in Economics from Boston College Department of Economics

Abstract: Affirmative action policies are often implemented through reserve systems. We contend that the functioning of these systems is counterintuitive, and that the consequent misunderstanding leads individuals to support policies that ineffectively pursue their goals. We present 1,013 participants in the Understanding America Study with incentivized choices between reserve policies that vary in all decision-relevant parameters. Many subjects’ choices are rationalized by a nearly correct decision rule, with errors driven solely by the incorrect belief that reversing the processing order has no effect. The prevalence of this belief helps to explain otherwise surprising decisions made in field applications of reserve systems.

Keywords: affirmative action; reserve systems; experimental economics; behavioral market design (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C9 D47 D9 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-04-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-des and nep-exp
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