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The Effect of Shift Structure on Performance


  • Tanguy Brachet
  • Guy David
  • Andrea M. Drechsler


The effect of shift structure on worker performance and productivity is of increasing interest to firms and regulatory bodies. Using approximately 743,000 emergency medical incidents attended by 2,381 paramedics in Mississippi, we evaluate the extent that paramedics' performance toward the end of shifts is impacted by shift length. We find evidence that performance deteriorates toward the end of long shifts, and argue that fatigue is the mediating factor. Our calculations imply that such deterioration may result in a 0.76 percent increase in 30-day mortality. These findings have implications for workforce organization, calling attention to regulation designed to limit extended work hours. (JEL J22, J24, J28, J45, M12)

Suggested Citation

  • Tanguy Brachet & Guy David & Andrea M. Drechsler, 2012. "The Effect of Shift Structure on Performance," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 219-246, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:4:y:2012:i:2:p:219-46 Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.4.2.219

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Freeman, Richard B, 1997. "Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 140-166, January.
    2. Lanfranchi, Joseph & Ohlsson, Henry & Skalli, Ali, 2002. "Compensating wage differentials and shift work preferences," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 393-398, February.
    3. Powell, James L., 1984. "Least absolute deviations estimation for the censored regression model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 303-325, July.
    4. Elizabeth Ty Wilde, 2013. "Do Emergency Medical System Response Times Matter For Health Outcomes?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(7), pages 790-806, July.
    5. Kostiuk, Peter F, 1990. "Compensating Differentials for Shift Work," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 1054-1075, October.
    6. Edward P. Lazear, 1991. "Labor Economics and the Psychology of Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 89-110, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Collewet, Marion & Sauermann, Jan, 2017. "Working hours and productivity," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 96-106.
    2. Jan Sauermann, 2016. "Performance measures and worker productivity," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 260-260, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets
    • M12 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation


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