Publications

James B. Rebitzer

  • Working Paper No. 607 | August 2010
    Standard and Behavioral Approaches to Agency and Labor Markets
    Employers structure pay and employment relationships to mitigate agency problems. A large literature in economics documents how the resolution of these problems shapes personnel policies and labor markets. For the most part, the study of agency in employment relationships relies on highly stylized assumptions regarding human motivation, e.g., that employees seek to earn as much money as possible with minimal effort. In this essay, we explore the consequences of introducing behavioral complexity and realism into models of agency within organizations. Specifically, we assess the insights gained by allowing employees to be guided by such motivations as the desire to compare favorably to others, the aspiration to contribute to intrinsically worthwhile goals, and the inclination to reciprocate generosity or exact retribution for perceived wrongs. More provocatively, from the standpoint of standard economics, we also consider the possibility that people are driven, in ways that may be opaque even to themselves, by the desire to earn social esteem or to shape and reinforce identity.

  • Working Paper No. 477 | October 2006
    Explaining the Organizational Structure of Large Law Firms

    We study the economics of employment relationships through theoretical and empirical analyses of an unusual set of firms, large law firms. Our point of departure is the "property rights" approach that emphasizes the centrality of ownership's legal rights to control important, nonhuman assets of the enterprise. From this perspective, large law firms are an interesting and potentially important object of study, because the most valuable assets of these firms take the form of knowledge—particularly knowledge of the needs and interests of clients. We argue that the two most distinctive organizational features of large law firms, the use of "up or out" promotion contests and the practice of having winners become residual claimants in the firm, emerge naturally in this setting. In addition to explaining otherwise anomalous features of the up-or-out partnership system, this paper suggests a general framework for analyzing organizations where assets reside in the brains of employees.

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    Author(s):
    James B. Rebitzer Lowell J. Taylor

  • Working Paper No. 432 | December 2005
    Some Evidence Concerning the Micro-foundations of a High Technology Cluster

    Observers of Silicon Valley’s computer cluster report that employees move rapidly between competing firms, but evidence supporting this claim is scarce. Job-hopping is important in computer clusters because it facilitates the reallocation of talent and resources toward firms with superior innovations. Using new data on labor mobility, we find higher rates of job-hopping for college-educated men in Silicon Valley’s computer industry than in computer clusters located out of the state. Mobility rates in other California computer clusters are similar to Silicon Valley’s, suggesting some role for features of California law that make non-compete agreements unenforceable. Consistent with our model of innovation, mobility rates outside of computer industries are no higher in California than elsewhere.

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    Author(s):
    Bruce Fallick Charles A. Fleischman James B. Rebitzer

  • Public Policy Brief Highlights No. 70A | November 2002
    Medical Practice Norms and the Quality of Care
    This brief considers the interaction between physician incentive systems and product market competition in the delivery of medical services via managed care organizations. At the center of the analysis is the process by which health maintenance organizations (HMOs) assemble physician networks and the role these networks play in the competition for customers. The authors find that although physician practice styles respond to financial incentives, there is little evidence that HMO cost-containment incentives cause a discernable reduction in care quality. They propose a model of the managed care marketplace that solves for both physician incentive contracts and HMO product market strategies in an environment of extreme information asymmetry: physicians perceive the quality of care they offer perfectly and their patients do not perceive it at all.

  • Public Policy Brief No. 70 | November 2002
    Medical Practice Norms and the Quality of Care

    This brief considers the interaction between physician incentive systems and product market competition in the delivery of medical services via managed care organizations. At the center of the analysis is the process by which health maintenance organizations (HMOs) assemble physician networks and the role these networks play in the competition for customers. The authors find that although physician practice styles respond to financial incentives, there is little evidence that HMO cost-containment incentives cause a discernable reduction in care quality. They propose a model of the managed care marketplace that solves for both physician incentive contracts and HMO product market strategies in an environment of extreme information asymmetry: physicians perceive the quality of care they offer perfectly and their patients do not perceive it at all.

  • Working Paper No. 353 | September 2002
    Racing to the Bottom or Pulling to the Top?

    The incentive contracts that managed care organizations write with physicians have generated considerable controversy. Critics fear that if informational asymmetries inhibit patients from directly assessing the quality of care provided by their physician, competition will lead to a "race to the bottom" in which managed care plans induce physicians to offer only minimal levels of care. To analyze this issue we propose a model of competition between managed care organizations. The model serves for both physician incentive contracts and HMO product market strategies in an environment of extreme information asymmetry--physicians perceive quality of care perfectly, and patients don't perceive it at all. We find that even in this stark setting, managed care organizations need not race to the bottom. Rather, the combination of product differentiation and physician practice norms causes managed care organizations to race to differing market niches, with some providing high levels of care as a means of assembling large physician networks. We also find that relative physician practice norms, defined endogenously by the standards of medical care prevailing in a market, exert a "pull to the top" that raises the quality of care provided by all managed care organizations in the market. We conclude by considering the implications of our model for public policies designed to limit the influence of HMO incentive systems.

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    Author(s):
    David J. Cooper James B. Rebitzer

  • Working Paper No. 340 | October 2001

    We studied the effect of physician incentives in an HMO network. Physician incentives are controversial because they may induce doctors to make treatment decisions that differ from those they would choose in the absence of incentives. We set out a theoretical framework for assessing the degree to which incentive contracts do, in fact, induce physicians to deviate from a standard, guided only by patient interest and professional medical judgment. Our empirical evaluation of the model relies on details of the HMO's incentive contracts and access to the firms' internal expenditure records. We estimate that the HMO's incentive contract provides a typical physician an increase, at the margin, of $.10 in income for each $1.00 reduction in medial utilization expenditures. The average response is a 5 percent reduction in medical expenditures. We also find suggestive evidence that financial incentives linked to commonly used "quality" measures may stimulate an improvement in measured quality.

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    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Martin Gaynor James B. Rebitzer Lowell J. Taylor

Publication Highlight

Book Series
A Great Leap Forward
Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st Century
Author(s): L. Randall Wray
January 2020

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