Many scarce public resources are allocated at below-market-clearing prices, and sometimes for free. Such “non-market” mechanisms necessarily sacrifice some surplus, yet they can potentially improve equity. In this paper, we develop a model of mechanism design with redistributive concerns. Agents are characterized by a privately observed social welfare weight and willingness to pay for quality, as well as a publicly observed label. A market designer controls allocation and pricing of a set of objects of heterogeneous quality, and maximizes the expectation of a welfare function defined by the social welfare weights. They derive structural insights about the form of the optimal mechanism, leading to a framework for determining how and when to use non-market mechanisms. The key determinant is the strength of the statistical correlation of the unobserved social welfare weights with the label and the willingness to pay that the designer can, respectively, directly observe or elicit through the mechanism.
Download Paper “Redistributive Allocation Mechanisms” as PDF file
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The Virtual Market Design Seminar is an open online alternative to seminars cancelled due to the COVID-19. Seminars will cover all fields from market design. The seminar presentations are scheduled to last 60 minutes, after 45 minutes of presentation, 15 minutes are for both comments and question.