IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cen/wpaper/09-24.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Earnings Inequality and Coordination Costs: Evidence from U.S. Law Firms

Author

Listed:
  • Luis Garicano
  • Thomas Hubbard

Abstract

Earnings inequality has increased substantially since the 1970s. Using evidence from confidential Census data on U.S. law offices on lawyers’ organization and earnings, we study the extent to which the mechanism suggested by Lucas (1978) and Rosen (1982), a scale of operations effect linking spans of control and earnings inequality, is responsible for increases in inequality. We first show that earnings inequality among lawyers increased substantially between 1977 and 1992, and that the distribution of partner-associate ratios across offices changed in ways consistent with the hypothesis that coordination costs fell during this period. We then propose a “hierarchical production function” in which output is the product of skill and time and estimate its parameters, applying insights from the equilibrium assignment literature. We find that coordination costs fell broadly and steadily during this period, so that hiring one’s first associate leveraged a partner’s skill by about 30% more in 1992 than 1977. We find also that changes in lawyers’ hierarchical organization account for about 2/3 of the increase in earnings inequality among lawyers in the upper tail, but a much smaller share of the increase in inequality between lawyers in the upper tail and other lawyers. These findings indicate that new organizational efficiencies potentially explain increases in inequality, especially among individuals toward the top of the earnings distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Luis Garicano & Thomas Hubbard, 2009. "Earnings Inequality and Coordination Costs: Evidence from U.S. Law Firms," Working Papers 09-24, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:09-24
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2009/CES-WP-09-24.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2009
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2008. "Why has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 49-100.
    2. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1992. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963–1987: Supply and Demand Factors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 35-78.
    3. Garicano, Luis & Hubbard, Thomas N, 2007. "Managerial Leverage Is Limited by the Extent of the Market: Hierarchies, Specialization, and the Utilization of Lawyers' Human Capital," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(1), pages 1-43, February.
    4. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
    8. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 1978. "On the Size Distribution of Business Firms," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 508-523, Autumn.
    9. Raghuram G. Rajan & Julie Wulf, 2006. "The Flattening Firm: Evidence from Panel Data on the Changing Nature of Corporate Hierarchies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 759-773, November.
    10. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
    11. Epple, Dennis, 1987. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Estimating Demand and Supply Functions for Differentiated Products," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 59-80, February.
    12. Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
    13. Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2006. "Organization and Inequality in a Knowledge Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1383-1435.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Bertrand Candelon & Arnaud Dupuy, 2015. "Hierarchical Organization And Performance Inequality: Evidence From Professional Cycling," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 56, pages 1207-1236, November.
    2. Garicano, Luis, 2010. "Policemen, managers, lawyers: New results on complementarities between organization and information and communication technology," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 355-358, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:09-24. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dawn Anderson). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/cesgvus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.