Parag Pathak

Last updated
Parag A. Pathak
Born (1980-06-08) June 8, 1980 (age 41)
Nationality American
Institution Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Field Market design
Game theory
Alma mater Harvard University
Alvin E. Roth [1]
Gabriel Carroll [2]
Awards John Bates Clark Medal (2018), Social Choice and Welfare Prize (2016)
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 named one of "the decade’s eight best young economists" by The Economist [9] and 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.” [10] [11]


Market design

Pathak is best known for his work in market design. As a graduate student, he worked together with Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Alvin E. 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]

He also worked with Abdulkadiroglu and Roth to design the algorithm underlying the system used to match New York City public school students to high schools as incoming freshman. [14] The Boston and New York reforms were recognized as part of 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.

Pathak continues to be involved with the Boston school choice plan. In 2012, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino commissioned Pathak's lab to write a report alternative zone configurations in the choice plan, including a return to neighborhood schools. 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 students, Peng Shi. 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]

Together with Abdulkadiroglu, Pathak was also part of a team that 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

Aside from his work on market design, Pathak is also a leading scholar in education reform. Together with Joshua Angrist, 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 was also part of the team that conducted the first lotter-based study of a KIPP charter school. [21] Work with Joshua Angrist and Christopher Walters 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]

With Atila Abdulkadiroglu and Joshua Angrist, Pathak coauthored a more controversial study that examines the effects of Boston and New York's exam schools (Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, John D. O'Bryant School). Because students are admitted to those schools solely using a standardized test, Pathak and his coauthors assumed that students slightly above and below the admission cutoff were academically similar prior to attendance at an exam school. After comparing the two cohorts after the completion of high school, the study found that attending a highly selective exam school had no impact on standardized test performance or college admissions, and that the supposed academic benefit of attending those schools was the result of selection bias (schools admitting previously talented students) rather than education quality. [24] [25] [26]


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 [27] and NPR. [28]

Related Research Articles

Lloyd Shapley American mathematician

Lloyd Stowell Shapley was an American mathematician and Nobel Prize-winning economist. He contributed to the fields of mathematical economics and especially game theory. Shapley is generally considered one of the most important contributors to the development of game theory since the work of von Neumann and Morgenstern. With Alvin E. Roth, Shapley won the 2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design."

David Gale American mathematician

David Gale was an American mathematician and economist. He was a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, affiliated with the departments of mathematics, economics, and industrial engineering and operations research. He has contributed to the fields of mathematical economics, game theory, and convex analysis.

The Knowledge is Power Program, commonly known as KIPP, is a network of free open-enrollment college-preparatory schools in low income communities throughout the United States. KIPP is America's largest network of charter schools. The head offices are in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

Thomas Joseph Kane is an American education economist who currently holds the position of Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has performed research on education policy, labour economics and econometrics. During Bill Clinton's first term as U.S. President, Kane served on the Council of Economic Advisers.

Joshua Angrist Israeli American economist

Joshua David Angrist is an Israeli American economist and Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2021 Angrist was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, together with David Card and Guido Imbens. Angrist and Imbens shared one half of the prize "for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships."

Alvin E. Roth American academic (born 1951)

Alvin Elliot Roth is an American academic. He is the Craig and Susan McCaw professor of economics at Stanford University and the Gund professor of economics and business administration emeritus at Harvard University. He was President of the American Economics Association in 2017.

Market design

Market design is a practical methodology for creation of markets of certain properties, which is partially based on mechanism design. In some markets, prices may be used to induce the desired outcomes — these markets are the study of auction theory. In other markets, prices may not be used — these markets are the study of matching theory.

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), also called The Match, is a United States-based private non-profit non-governmental organization created in 1952 to place U.S. medical school students into residency training programs located in United States teaching hospitals. Its mission has since expanded to include the placement of U.S. citizen and non-U.S. citizen international medical school students and graduates into residency and fellowship training programs. In addition to the annual Main Residency Match that in 2021 encompassed more than 48,000 applicants and 38,000 positions, the NRMP conducts Fellowship Matches for more than 60 subspecialties through its Specialties Matching Service (SMS). The NRMP is sponsored by a Board of Directors that includes medical school deans, teaching hospital executives, graduate medical education program directors, medical students and residents, and one public member.

Charter schools operate with considerably more independence than traditional public schools. However, Massachusetts has two kinds of charter schools - Commonwealth Charters and Horace Mann Charters. Horace Mann charter schools differ from Commonwealth charter schools as they must be located within a school district. Both kinds of charter schools are free to structure their curriculum and school environment; for instance, many charter schools fit more instructional hours into a year by running longer school days and providing instruction on weekends and during the summer. Because few charter schools are unionized, they can hire and fire teachers and administrative staff without regard to the collectively bargained seniority and tenure provisions that constrain such decisions in most public schools. Although charter students made up only 2.9 percent of U.S. public school enrollment in 2008–2009, charter enrollment has grown rapidly and seems likely to accelerate in the near future. The growth of charter schools is an important component of the contemporary education reform movement's pursuit of accountability and flexibility in public education. Proponents see charter schools' freedom from regulation as a source of educational innovation, with the added benefit of providing a source of competition that may prompt innovation and improvement in the rest of the public system. At the same time, charter schools are controversial because, after a transition period in which the state provides subsidies, they receive a tuition payment for each enrolled student paid by students' home districts. In Massachusetts, tuition payments are determined largely by the average per-pupil expenditure in sending districts. Not surprisingly, therefore, public school districts are concerned about the revenue lost when their students enroll in charter schools.

Tayfun Sönmez is a Turkish-American professor of economics at Boston College. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the 2008 winner of the Social Choice and Welfare Prize, which honors scholars under the age of 40 for excellent accomplishment in the area of social choice theory and welfare economics. Sönmez has made significant contributions in the areas of microeconomic theory, mechanism/market design, and game theory. His work has been featured by the U.S. National Science Foundation for its practical relevance.

Guido Wilhelmus Imbens is a Dutch American economist. In 2021 Imbens was awarded half of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences jointly with Joshua Angrist "for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships", with David Card awarded the other half. He has been Professor of Economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business at Stanford University since 2012.

David Autor American economist

David H. Autor is an American economist and professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he also acts as co-director of the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative. Although Autor has contributed to a variety of fields in economics his research generally focuses on topics from labor economics.

Hervé Moulin is a French mathematician who is the Donald J. Robertson Chair of Economics at the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow. He is known for his research contributions in mathematical economics, in particular in the fields of mechanism design, social choice, game theory and fair division. He has written five books and over 100 peer-reviewed articles.

Top trading cycle (TTC) is an algorithm for trading indivisible items without using money. It was developed by David Gale and published by Herbert Scarf and Lloyd Shapley.

Fuhito Kojima is a Japanese economist and a professor at the University of Tokyo.

Yan Chen is a Chinese American behavioral and experimental economist. She is Daniel Kahneman Collegiate Professor of Information at the University of Michigan School of Information, research professor in the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University, where she directs the Economics Science and Policy Experimental Lab. She is a former president of the Economic Science Association, an international organization of experimental economists.

Susan Marie Dynarski is an American economist who is currently professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is also a faculty research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a nonresident senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program of the Brookings Institution.

Victor Chaim Lavy is an Israeli economist and professor at the University of Warwick and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research interests include labour economics, the economics of education, and development economics. Lavy belongs to the most prominent education economists in the world.

In economics, stable matching theory or simply matching theory, is the study of matching markets. Matching markets are distinguished from Walrasian markets in the focus of who matches with whom. Matching theory typically examines matching in the absence of search frictions, differentiating it from search and matching theory. In 2012, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd Shapley for their work on matching theory.

In economics and social choice theory, a no-justified-envy matching is a matching in a two-sided market, in which no agent prefers the assignment of another agent and is simultaneously preferred by that assignment.


  1. Essays on real -life allocation problems
  2. "Carroll's Curriculum Vitae" (PDF).
  3. "Market Design (MD)".
  4. "Parag Pathak, 2003". P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  5. "Newsmakers". 14 June 2007.
  6. "Parag Pathak".
  7. "Games 2012, Istanbul Bilgi University".
  8. "Shapley Lecture". Archived from the original on 2013-12-30. Retrieved 2013-09-02.
  9. "Our pick of the decade's eight best young economists". The Economist. ISSN   0013-0613 . Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  10. "MIT's Pathak, School-Choice Scholar, Wins Young-Economist Award". 2018-04-20. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  11. "Parag Pathak, Clark Medalist 2018". American Economic Association. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  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. doi: 10.3386/w11965 .
  14. Pathak, Parag; Atila Abdulkadiroğlu; Alvin Roth (2005). "The New York City High School Match". American Economic Review. 95 (2): 364–367. doi:10.1257/000282805774670167.
  15. Vaznis, James. "Boston school-choice recommendations delayed". The Boston Globe.
  16. Parent Imperfect (9 March 2013). "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" (PDF). Quarterly Journal of Economics. 126 (2): 699–748. doi:10.1093/qje/qjr017. hdl: 10.1093/qje/qjr017 .
  20. Skinner. "Charter School Success or Selective Out-Migration of Low Achievers?" (PDF). Center for Education Policy and Practice. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-04-25. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  21. Angrist, Joshua D.; Dynarski, Susan M.; Kane, Thomas J.; Pathak, Parag A.; Walters, Christopher R. (1 February 2010). "Who Benefits from KIPP?". doi:10.3386/w15740 via National Bureau of Economic Research.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. Zubrzycki, Jaclyn (7 March 2012). "Studies Find Charters Vary in Quality, Creativity". Education Week.
  23. Vaznis, Jamie. "Charter schools in Boston score higher on key tests". Boston Globe.
  24. Abdulkadiroǧlu, Atila; Angrist, Joshua; Pathak, Parag (2014). "The Elite Illusion: Achievement Effects at Boston and New York Exam Schools". Econometrica. 82 (1): 137–196. doi:10.3982/ECTA10266. hdl: 10419/62423 . ISSN   0012-9682. JSTOR   24029173. S2CID   45092956.
  25. Kix, Paul. "What exam schools can't do". Boston Globe.
  26. Dynarski, Susan M. (2018-07-19). "Evidence on New York City and Boston exam schools". Brookings. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  28. "Researchers Quantify The Foreclosure Effect". 25 July 2010.


Preceded by
Recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal
Succeeded by