A Simple Procedure for Finding Equitable Allocations of Indivisible Goods

Dorothea K Herreiner, Economics Department, Bowdoin College
Clemens Puppe, Department of Economics, University of Karlsruhe

The paper investigates how far a particular procedure, called the "descending demand procedure," can take us in finding equitable allocations of indivisible goods. Both interpersonal and intrapersonal criteria of equitability are considered. It is shown that the procedure generally fares well on an interpersonal criterion of "balancedness"; specifically, the resulting allocations are Pareto-optimal and maximize the well-being of the worst-off individual. As a criterion of intrapersonal equitability, the property of envy-freeness is considered. To accommodate envy-freeness, a modification of the basic procedure is suggested. With two individuals, the modified procedure is shown to select the envy-free allocations that are balanced, i.e. the allocations that maximize the well-being of the worse-off individual among all envy-free allocations.

Published: Social Choice and Welfare, 19 (April 2002), 415-430.