Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Divide-and-conquer: A proportional, minimal-envy cake-cutting algorithm

Brams, Steven J. and Jones, Michael A. and Klamler, Christian (2010): Divide-and-conquer: A proportional, minimal-envy cake-cutting algorithm. Forthcoming in: SIAM Review (2011)


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We analyze a class of proportional cake-cutting algorithms that use a minimal number of cuts (n-1 if there are n players) to divide a cake that the players value along one dimension. While these algorithms may not produce an envy-free or efficient allocation--as these terms are used in the fair-division literature--one, divide-and-conquer (D&C), minimizes the maximum number of players that any single player can envy. It works by asking n ≥ 2 players successively to place marks on a cake--valued along a line--that divide it into equal halves (when n is even) or nearly equal halves (when n is odd), then halves of these halves, and so on. Among other properties, D&C ensures players of at least 1/n shares, as they each value the cake, if and only if they are truthful. However, D&C may not allow players to obtain proportional, connected pieces if they have unequal entitlements. Possible applications of D&C to land division are briefly discussed.

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