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The Inefficiency Of Worker Time Use


  • Decio Coviello
  • Andrea Ichino
  • Nicola Persico


Much work is carried out in short, interrupted segments. This phenomenon, which we label task juggling, has been overlooked by economists. We study the work schedules of some judges in Italy documenting that they do juggle tasks and that juggling causally lowers their productivity substantially. To measure the size of this effect, we show that although all these judges receive the same workload, those who juggle more trials at once instead of working sequentially on few of them at each unit of time, take longer to complete their portfolios of cases. Task juggling seems to have no adverse effect on the quality of the judges' decisions, as measured by the percent of decisions appealed. To identify these causal effects we estimate models with judge fixed effects and we exploit the lottery assigning cases to judges. We discuss whether task juggling can be viewed as inefficient, and provide a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the social cost of longer trials due to task juggling.

Suggested Citation

  • Decio Coviello & Andrea Ichino & Nicola Persico, 2015. "The Inefficiency Of Worker Time Use," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(5), pages 906-947, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:13:y:2015:i:5:p:906-947

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    Cited by:

    1. V. Rattini, 2016. "Managing the Workload: an Experiment on Individual Decision Making and Performance," Working Papers wp1080, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    2. Samantha Bielen & Wim Marneffe & Peter Grajzl & Valentina Dimitrova-Grajzl, 2016. "The Duration of Judicial Deliberation: Evidence from Belgium," CESifo Working Paper Series 5947, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Florence Kondylis & Mattea Stein, 2018. "The Speed of Justice," PSE Working Papers halshs-01735025, HAL.
    4. Dimitrova-Grajzl, Valentina & Grajzl, Peter & Slavov, Atanas & Zajc, Katarina, 2016. "Courts in a transition economy: Case disposition and the quantity–quality tradeoff in Bulgaria," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 18-38.
    5. Jan U. Auerbach & Miguel A. Fonseca, 2017. "Preordered Service in Contract Enforcement," Discussion Papers 1704, Exeter University, Department of Economics.
    6. Decio Coviello & Luigi Moretti & Giancarlo Spagnolo & Paola Valbonesi, 2013. "Court Efficiency and Procurement Performance," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0164, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    7. Berlemann, Michael & Christmann, Robin, 2017. "The Role of Precedents on Court Delay - Evidence from a civil law country," MPRA Paper 80057, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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