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Local Search Approaches in Stable Matching Problems

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Author(s): Mirco Gelain | Maria Silvia Pini | Francesca Rossi | K. Brent Venable | Toby Walsh

Journal: Algorithms
ISSN 1999-4893

Volume: 6;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 591;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: local search | stable matching | sampling | ties and incomplete preference lists

ABSTRACT
The stable marriage (SM) problem has a wide variety of practical applications, ranging from matching resident doctors to hospitals, to matching students to schools or, more generally, to any two-sided market. In the classical formulation, n men and n women express their preferences (via a strict total order) over the members of the other sex. Solving an SM problem means finding a stable marriage where stability is an envy-free notion: no man and woman who are not married to each other would both prefer each other to their partners or to being single. We consider both the classical stable marriage problem and one of its useful variations (denoted SMTI (Stable Marriage with Ties and Incomplete lists)) where the men and women express their preferences in the form of an incomplete preference list with ties over a subset of the members of the other sex. Matchings are permitted only with people who appear in these preference lists, and we try to find a stable matching that marries as many people as possible. Whilst the SM problem is polynomial to solve, the SMTI problem is NP-hard. We propose to tackle both problems via a local search approach, which exploits properties of the problems to reduce the size of the neighborhood and to make local moves efficiently. We empirically evaluate our algorithm for SM problems by measuring its runtime behavior and its ability to sample the lattice of all possible stable marriages. We evaluate our algorithm for SMTI problems in terms of both its runtime behavior and its ability to find a maximum cardinality stable marriage. Experimental results suggest that for SM problems, the number of steps of our algorithm grows only as O(n log(n)), and that it samples very well the set of all stable marriages. It is thus a fair and efficient approach to generate stable marriages. Furthermore, our approach for SMTI problems is able to solve large problems, quickly returning stable matchings of large and often optimal size, despite the NP-hardness of this problem.
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