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Study explains how a job-market system lands couples in the same city
Date:11/1/2013

Since World War II, women have entered the American workforce in greater numbers than ever before. For married couples, this presents a wrinkle, since it can be hard for both partners to find a desirable job in the same locale.

This issue is particularly pressing in some specialized fields. When doctors graduate from medical school, for instance, they apply for their first jobs through a national clearinghouse in which both job-seekers and institutions express their preferences; a computer program determines the results. That means two-doctor couples are often fearful of not landing in the same geographic location.

Now a paper co-authored by an MIT economist sheds new light on the circumstances in which these job-placement programs can, in fact, accommodate married couples quite well.

"Our results provide justification for the current rules in practice," says MIT economist Parag Pathak, who helped conduct the study to "try to understand how far we are from some kind of optimal system."

In many cases, the answer appears to be: not far at all. If the method used is properly calibrated to the size of the job market, the researchers found, then the clearinghouse should work for nearly everyone, couples included.

Seeing if an ad-hoc system works

The paper, "Matching with Couples: Stability and Incentives in Large Markets," published this month by the Quarterly Journal of Economics, was written by economists Fuhito Kojima and Alvin Roth of Stanford University, along with Pathak. All three scholars work in the field of "market design," where they seek to devise rules bringing desirable outcomes to social systems. The paper blends theory and empiricism, bridging the gap between theoretical work suggesting these medical markets cannot work very well and recent data indicating that many clearinghouses do function quite efficiently.

In medicine, these mechanisms aim to create a set of "stable ma
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Contact: Sarah McDonnell
s_mcd@mit.edu
617-253-8923
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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