Alvin Roth is a Harvard economist. Today he won the Nobel Prize. He influenced my life because he created the "matching system" by which medical school grads get paired with residencies. Fortunately that took Pru from U of Vermont to Mount Auburn Hospital. Our 2 children appreciate Roth's work. Roth also worked on school choice issues.
In 2003, New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, who wanted to revamp the school-choice system, approached a Harvard University professor named Alvin Roth about the problem. Roth had studied the method for matching medical students to their residencies; New York officials hoped something similar would work for their school system.
In turn, Roth asked Pathak, then a first-year PhD student in economics, to look into New York’s school-choice system: Was it a substantive and interesting problem? Pathak decided it was. A decade later, he is still producing new research on the topic, and in 2011 received tenure at MIT, in part because of his work in the area.
Moreover, that work has produced real-world results. Based on the research of Roth and his collaborators, New York City soon adopted what is known as a “deferred-acceptance algorithm” to assign places. Then, Roth’s group, now including economist Tayfun Sonmez, helped Boston review its choice system, leading the city to adopt a new method in 2005.
Here Roth and Pathak did a good empirical job on an overall system most people don't like, because "good schools" are perceived by Boston parents as a scarce resource.
If you're vying to do public school choice "right" for parents in your city (hello friends in DC, Detroit, Indianapolis, NOLA, etc), you can reach Roth's nonprofit right here.