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Advanced Fairness At The Marathon

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Advanced Fairness At The Marathon

Advanced Fairness At The Marathon

Advanced Fairness At The Marathon

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/793488868/802375601" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Runners cross the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge during the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

Runners cross the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge during the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon.

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

Every year, the New York City Marathon has to deal with a classic economics problem: How to allocate a scarce resource. Despite being the largest marathon in the world, it still doesn't have enough slots for everyone who wants to run. So, is there a "fairest" way to decide who gets in, and who doesn't?

Fair is a philosophical concept, which makes picking the fairest way to allocate a scarce resource a complicated problem. Versions of this puzzle pop up all over the place, from school admissions to housing lotteries to job applications.

The fair allocation problem has no definitive solution. But the New York City Marathon has come up with a clever system to deal with it, and to keep 100,000 type-A runners happy (or at least not angry).

Music: "Can't Touch You" and "Funky Breakbeat."

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