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?


  1. Amazing!

    school = hospital.

  2. Other ideas as we talked it out:

    1) How long do they meet for? Perhaps full-day interviews like they have for hospitals.

    2) The NSMP could rank the various members similar to how the US News ranks hospitals - split up in various categories. "Shaindel is a little weak in the brains department, but does nicely in the middos departments." "Avi is good-looking and bright, but also a selfish jerk, coming dead last in selflessness." Etc.

    3) We could categorize - class A would be Harvard, class B would be Queens College, class C would be Touro.

    Feel free to add. :)

  3. except that schools ranking students and students ranking school have a somewhat more objective rationale for the ranking.....

  4. Harry-er - Hence why the actual program should rate the individuals. Or their rankings could be made between the individual meets and the rankings by all the people who met them.

  5. if 2 people matched, would they tell the other person if they were their "top choice"? -adina

  6. Like the hospitals, they'd likely just assume they were high on the other's list. :)

  7. The analogy doesn't work in two instances. First, those trying to match to the hospitals have access to more than just the hospitals--they have access to those presently in the hospitals and to those who have finished their residencies in the hospitals. This would translate to having polygamy make a comeback, so that daters could speak to someone's present spouse and to a past spouse.

    The doctor/hospital relationship is also not meant to be permanent, although in a few cases doctors may continue with a hospital after residency. If it turns out that you don't like the hospital you chose and that chose you after living with it for a while you have a few choices: you can leave and re-apply to a different hospital, you can decide to get out of medicine altogether, or you can tell yourself that you can take anything for a limited time and put up with things until you don't have to anymore. This type of pre-determined time limit isn't there for shidduchim. And divorce is not looked at with favor even if it does happen quite a bit nowadays.

  8. ProfK - Agreed on the first point, which is why I added the idea of having the program rank people and/or the people meeting them rank them in various categories.

    As for the life point, I don't know that it's truly any different. For a matched doctor to switch programs or drop out of one looks not much different than a divorce, as I understand it. Obviously the stakes are to some extent different, but for someone who truly wishes to be a doctor I'm not sure how different.

    All that said, I acknowledge it's not perfect, so it surely could use some refining. :)