Monday, March 14, 2011

Match! (for Shidduchim?)

Firstly, a huge mazel tov to everyone who "matched" today, in particular our good friends Moshe and FrumDoc. We're really happy for you, and wish you the best of luck in staying sane this week while waiting to find out where.

Moshe gchatted me today and brought up a fun idea for a post: Suggest that the shidduch system adopt the same "Match" system used by medical students as they seek out residency programs. The National Resident Matching Program, explained better on Wikipedia, is meant to solve the issue of matching doctors to residency programs in a way that is fair to both schools and doctors by pairing them with one another based on how much they like each other. Ironically, Wiki describes the problem as the following:
The problem of matching hospitals to residents is a generalization of the stable marriage problem, and as a result the solutions to the two problems are very similar.
In short, the way the program works is that each school ranks a large number of students whom they would be willing to have in their program in order based on whom they like the most. On the other side, the students rank the programs in order based on which schools they like the most. (Important note: Students who sign up for Match MUST accept the position they are matched to.) Neither side ranks any person or program which they would be unwilling to have or go to. Finally, the computer algorithm which calculates it all gives preference to the students over the programs.

As Moshe explained, this means that a school which has 25 openings would rank (say) 75 students they're willing to accept, while a student may rank 10 programs they'd be willing to join. If the school's top 25 all ranked the program #1, then those 25 would take the openings. But most likely, only some of those first 25 have actually ranked the school number one, so if 10 have, and the other 15 all matched at their first choices, then another 15 slots are available to the next people on the list. It slowly works through each person's list and then compares those lists against the schools until as many people as possible are matched into programs they're willing to join and as many slots as filled are possible with acceptable students.

Moshe suggested trying the same model for shidduchim: Have a large number of singles meet and get to know one another. Then, have them all submit a list in order of preference as to whom they'd be willing to marry, only listing those whom they'd be willing to marry. Should they not match any of the people on their list, they are choosing being single over being married to the other options for a period of one year (just as medical students wait one year to retry matching), or they can "scramble" (as medical students can) and quickly submit to a second match based on whomever is still available.

Once everyone has submitted their match lists, then shidduchim could be made in exactly the same way as occurs with the NRMP system. People would only be matched to people whom they are willing to be married to, so there's no risk of anyone being forced into a marriage; both sides would have had to list one another. At the end of the day, people are matched up rather well with those whom they wish to be, and they don't need to waste time on others who are not interested in them.

Is "Match" for shidduchim a viable option? Preferable? Absolutely insane?