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The Return to Knowledge Hierarchies

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  • Thomas Hubbard
  • Luis Garicano

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. To quantify this effect, we analyze the earnings and organization of U.S. lawyers and use the equilibrium model of knowledge hierarchies in Garicano and Rossi-Hansberg (2006) to assess how much lawyers, productivity and the distribution of earnings across lawyers reflects lawyers. ability to organize problem-solving hierarchically. We analyze earnings, organizational, and assignment patterns and show that they are generally consistent with the main predictions of the model. We then use these data to estimate the model. Our estimates imply that hierarchical production leads to at least a 30% increase in production 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, increasing the ratio between the 95th and 50th percentiles from 3.7 to 4.8. We conclude that the impact of hierarchy on productivity and earnings distributions in this industry is substantial but not dramatic, reflecting the fact that the problems lawyers face are diverse and that the solutions tend to be customized.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Hubbard & Luis Garicano, 2007. "The Return to Knowledge Hierarchies," Working Papers 07-01, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:07-01
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    2. Luis Garicano & Thomas N Hubbard, 2018. "Earnings Inequality and Coordination Costs: Evidence from US Law Firms," The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(2), pages 196-229.
    3. Hortaçsu, Ali & Syverson, Chad, 2009. "Why Do Firms Own Production Chains?," Working Papers 227, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State.
    4. 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.
    5. Schopohl, Simon, 2017. "Information transmission in hierarchies," Center for Mathematical Economics Working Papers 570, Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University.
    6. Altomonte, Carlo & Rungi, Armando, 2013. "Business Groups as Hierarchies of Firms: Determinants of Vertical Integration and Performance," Economy and Society 148920, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    7. Lucas van der Velde, 2020. "Within Occupation Wage Dispersion and the Task Content of Jobs," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 82(5), pages 1161-1197, October.
    8. Smeets, Valerie & Warzynski, Frederic, 2008. "Too many theories, too few facts? What the data tell us about the link between span of control, compensation and career dynamics," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 687-703, August.
    9. Kaplan, Steven N. & Rauh, Joshua, 2009. "Wall Street and Main Street: What Contributes to the Rise in the Highest Incomes?," Working Papers 229, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State.
    10. 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.
    11. Alessandro Sforza, 2020. "Shocks and the Organization of the Firm: Who Pays the Bill?," CESifo Working Paper Series 8084, CESifo.
    12. Simon Schopohl, 2017. "Information Transmission in Hierarchies," Post-Print halshs-01491930, HAL.
    13. 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.
    14. Simon Schopohl, 2017. "Information Transmission in Hierarchies," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01491930, HAL.
    15. 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.
    16. Guadalupe, Maria & Wulf, Julie, 2009. "The Flattening Firm and Product Market Competition," CEPR Discussion Papers 7253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    17. Hyytinen, Ari, 2021. "Shared problem solving and design thinking in entrepreneurship research," Journal of Business Venturing Insights, Elsevier, vol. 16(C).

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    JEL classification:

    • J50 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - General

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