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Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are?

  • Zoghi, Cindy


    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Levenson, Alec R.


    (University of Southern California)

  • Gibbs, Michael


    (University of Chicago)

In this paper we study job design. Will an organization plan precisely how the job is to be done ex ante, or ask workers to determine the process as they go? We first model this decision and predict complementarity between these job attributes: multitasking, discretion, skills, and interdependence of tasks. We argue that characteristics of the firm and industry (e.g., product and technology, organizational change) can explain observed patterns and trends in job design. We then use novel data on these job attributes to examine these issues. As predicted, job designs tend to be ‘coherent’ across these characteristics within the same job. Job designs also tend to follow similar patterns across jobs in the same firm, and especially in the same establishment: when one job is optimized ex ante, others are more likely to be also. There is some evidence that firms may segregate different types of job designs across different establishments.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1529.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Research in Labor Economics, 2010, 30, 107-154
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1529
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  1. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1996. "The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity," NBER Working Papers 5657, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  3. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 1999. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Abraham, Katharine G & Taylor, Susan K, 1996. "Firms' Use of Outside Contractors: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(3), pages 394-424, July.
  5. John Paul Macduffie, 1995. "Human Resource Bundles and Manufacturing Performance: Organizational Logic and Flexible Production Systems in the World Auto Industry," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(2), pages 197-221, January.
  6. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1992. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1137-1160.
  7. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J, 2000. "Multitask Learning and the Reorganization of Work: From Tayloristic to Holistic Organization," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 353-76, July.
  8. Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia & Cindy Zoghi, 2004. "Which Workers Gain from Computer Use?," Working Papers 373, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  9. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1995. "Complementarities and fit strategy, structure, and organizational change in manufacturing," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 179-208, April.
  10. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10093 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Eve Caroli & John Van Reenen, 2001. "Skill-Biased Organizational Change? Evidence from A Panel of British and French Establishments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1449-1492.
  12. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," NBER Working Papers 5956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
  14. David Neumark & Peter Cappelli, 1999. "Do "High Performance" Work Practices Improve Establishment-Level Outcomes?," NBER Working Papers 7374, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Dessein, Wouter & Santos, Jesus, 2003. "The Demand for Coordination," CEPR Discussion Papers 4096, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-28, June.
  17. Wruck, Karen Hopper & Jensen, Michael C., 1994. "Science, specific knowledge, and total quality management," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 247-287, November.
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