Fair Allocation of Indivisible Goods to Asymmetric Agents

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We study fair allocation of indivisible goods to agents with unequal entitlements. Fair allocation has been the subject of many studies in both divisible and indivisible settings. Our emphasis is on the case where the goods are indivisible and agents have unequal entitlements. This problem is a generalization of the work by Procaccia and Wang (2014) wherein the agents are assumed to be symmetric with respect to their entitlements. Although Procaccia and Wang show an almost fair (constant approximation) allocation exists in their setting, our main result is in sharp contrast to their observation. We show that, in some cases with n agents, no allocation can guarantee better than 1/n approximation of a fair allocation when the entitlements are not necessarily equal. Furthermore, we devise a simple algorithm that ensures a 1/n approximation guarantee.

Our second result is for a restricted version of the problem where the valuation of every agent for each good is bounded by the total value he wishes to receive in a fair allocation. Although this assumption might seem without loss of generality, we show it enables us to find a 1/2 approximation fair allocation via a greedy algorithm. Finally, we run some experiments on real-world data and show that, in practice, a fair allocation is likely to exist. We also support our experiments by showing positive results for two stochastic variants of the problem, namely stochastic agents and stochastic items.

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