Computing at Glasgow University
Paper ID: 5831

Hard Variants of Stable Marriage
Manlove,D.F. Irving,R.W. Iwama,K. Miyazaki,S. Morita,Y.

Publication Type: Journal
Appeared in: Theoretical Computer Science, volume 276
Page Numbers : 261-279
Publisher: Elsevier Science
Year: 2002
ISBN/ISSN: 0304-3975

URL: This publication is available at this URL.


The Stable Marriage Problem and its many variants have been widely studied in the literature (Gusfield and Irving, The Stable Marriage Problem: Structure and Algorithms, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1989; Roth and Sotomayor, Two-sided matching: a study in game-theoretic modeling and analysis, Econometric Society Monographs, vol. 18, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990; Knuth, Stable Marriage and its Relation to Other Combinatorial Problems, CRM Proceedings and Lecture Notes, vol. 10, American Mathematical Society, Providence, RI, 1997), partly because of the inherent appeal of the problem, partly because of the elegance of the associated structures and algorithms, and partly because of important practical applications, such as the National Resident Matching Program (Roth, J. Political Economy 92(6) (1984) 991) and similar large-scale matching schemes. Here, we present the first comprehensive study of variants of the problem in which the preference lists of the participants are not necessarily complete and not necessarily totally ordered. We show that, under surprisingly restrictive assumptions, a number of these variants are hard, and hard to approximate. The key observation is that, in contrast to the case where preference lists are complete or strictly ordered (or both), a given problem instance may admit stable matchings of different sizes. In this setting, examples of problems that are hard are: finding a stable matching of maximum or minimum size, determining whether a given pair is stable—even if the indifference takes the form of ties on one side only, the ties are at the tails of lists, there is at most one tie per list, and each tie is of length 2; and finding, or approximating, both an ‘egalitarian’ and a ‘minimum regret’ stable matching. However, we give a 2-approximation algorithm for the problems of finding a stable matching of maximum or minimum size. We also discuss the significant implications of our results for practical matching schemes.

Keywords: Stable marriage problem; Indifference; Ties; NP-completeness; Approximation algorithms

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