Democratic fair allocation of indivisible goods

Erel Segal-Halevi, Warut Suksompong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We study the problem of fairly allocating indivisible goods to groups of agents. Agents in the same group share the same set of goods even though they may have different preferences. Previous work has focused on unanimous fairness, in which all agents in each group must agree that their group's share is fair. Under this strict requirement, fair allocations exist only for small groups. We introduce the concept of democratic fairness, which aims to satisfy a certain fraction of the agents in each group. This concept is better suited to large groups such as cities or countries. We present protocols for democratic fair allocation among two or more arbitrarily large groups of agents with monotonic, additive, or binary valuations. For two groups with arbitrary monotonic valuations, we give an efficient protocol that guarantees envy-freeness up to one good for at least 1/2 of the agents in each group, and prove that the 1/2 fraction is optimal. We also present other protocols that make weaker fairness guarantees to more agents in each group, or to more groups. Our protocols combine techniques from different fields, including combinatorial game theory, cake cutting, and voting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103167
JournalArtificial Intelligence
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Democratic fairness
  • Fair division
  • Resource allocation
  • Social choice


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