Fair and Efficient Cake Division with Connected Pieces

The classic cake-cutting problem provides a model for addressing fair and efficient allocation of a divisible, heterogeneous resource (metaphorically, the cake) among agents with distinct preferences. Focusing on a standard formulation of cake cutting, in which each agent must receive a contiguous piece of the cake, this work establishes algorithmic and hardness results for multiple fairness/efficiency measures. First, we consider the well-studied notion of envy-freeness and develop an efficient algorithm that finds a cake division (with connected pieces) wherein the envy is multiplicatively within a factor of 3. The same algorithm in fact achieves an approximation ratio of 3 for the problem of finding cake divisions with as large a Nash social welfare (NSW) as possible. NSW is another standard measure of fairness and this work also establishes a connection between envy-freeness and NSW: approximately envy-free cake divisions (with connected pieces) always have near-optimal Nash social welfare. Furthermore, we develop an approximation algorithm for maximizing the ρ-mean welfare--this unifying objective, with different values of ρ, interpolates between notions of fairness (NSW) and efficiency (average social welfare). Finally, we complement these algorithmic results by proving that maximizing NSW (and, in general, the ρ-mean welfare) is APX-hard in the cake-division context


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