Friday, August 30, 2013

Coercion and External Costs: Auckland Beast With Two Backs Edition

From our old pal Eric Crampton, something I gather must be a "problem" for undergrads: noisy dorm room canoodling. The GTM had a piece here a while back on side payments for dorm rooms at Duke. The relevant take-away from that story is that room accommodations for students tend to be part of bundled contracts: they're tied to attendance, and typically, no one raises a stink when the housing department leans a little to the thuggish side.

And why should anyone, so long as the conditions aren't too gulag-ish? The kids are out of the house for the first time in their lives, so they're happy. The parents just got one of their rooms back to use for their own externality generation, so they're happy, and the community sure doesn't want roving gangs of young adults churning the local rental markets, so they're, well, they're not unhappy. Universities can get away with a whole lot more coercion with 18-22 year old kids than they might with, say, people my age.

But officials still should probably let students find their own mutually beneficial solutions to common pool problems, right? Being especially rigid with room assignments seems peculiar. Roth has all these cool matching algorithms to perhaps make initial assignments better. You, know, maybe have something like OKCupid for dorm rooms, and then why not have exchanges or something for the fine tuning?

I suppose this is what they call a bleg: at your university, how do administrators determine room assignments? What could be done to make the process better? Is this even an important problem?

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?