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The Returns to Knowledge Hierarchies

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  • Luis Garicano
  • Thomas N. Hubbard

Abstract

Hierarchies allow individuals to leverage their knowledge through others’ time. This mechanism increases productivity and amplifies the impact of skill heterogeneity on earnings inequality. This article analyzes the earnings and organization of US lawyers and uses an equilibrium model of knowledge hierarchies inspired by Garicano and Rossi-Hansberg (2006. “Organization and Inequality in a Knowledge Economy,” 121 Quarterly Journal of Economics 1383–436) to assess how much lawyers’ productivity and the distribution of earnings across lawyers reflects lawyers’ ability to organize problem-solving hierarchically. Our estimates imply that hierarchical production leads to at least a 30% increase in productivity in this industry, relative to a situation where lawyers within the same office do not “vertically specialize.” We further find that it amplifies earnings inequality, mostly by increasing the earnings of the very highest percentile lawyers in business and litigation-related segments.

Suggested Citation

  • Luis Garicano & Thomas N. Hubbard, 2016. "The Returns to Knowledge Hierarchies," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(4), pages 653-684.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:32:y:2016:i:4:p:653-684.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/jleo/eww008
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Luis Garicano & Thomas Hubbard, 2009. "Earnings Inequality and Coordination Costs: Evidence From U.S. Law Firms," NBER Working Papers 14741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Ali Hortacsu & Chad Syverson, 2009. "Why Do Firms Own Production Chains?," Working Papers 09-31, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    3. Steven N. Kaplan & Joshua Rauh, 2010. "Wall Street and Main Street: What Contributes to the Rise in the Highest Incomes?," NBER Chapters,in: Corporate Governance National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Maria Guadalupe & Julie M. Wulf, 2008. "The Flattening Firm and Product Market Competition: The Effect of Trade Liberalization," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-067, Harvard Business School.
    5. Roberto Antonietti & Maria Rosaria Ferrante & Riccardo Leoncini, 2016. "Local market size, social capital and outsourcing: evidence from Emilia Romagna," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 243-260, June.
    6. Carlo Altomonte & Armando Rungi, 2013. "Business Groups as Hierarchies of Firms: Determinants of Vertical Integration and Performance," Working Papers 2013.33, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    7. Lucas van der Velde, 2017. "Within occupation wage dispersion and the task content of jobs," GRAPE Working Papers 22, GRAPE Group for Research in Applied Economics.
    8. Ann P. Bartel & Ciaran S. Phibbs & Nancy Beaulieu & Patricia Stone, 2011. "Human Capital and Organizational Performance: Evidence from the Healthcare Sector," NBER Working Papers 17474, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Frank Limehouse & Robert McCormick, 2011. "Impacts of Central Business District Location: A Hedonic Analysis of Legal Service Establishments," Working Papers 11-21, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • L84 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Personal, Professional, and Business Services

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