Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1121006
 
 

References (37)



 


 



Understanding High Skill Worker Productivity Using Random Case Assignment in a Public Defender's Office


David Abrams


University of Pennsylvania Law School

Albert Yoon


University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

November 2007

3rd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Papers

Abstract:     
Measuring high skill worker productivity presents several challenges. High skill workers almost always select their tasks, and unobserved variation across tasks introduces estimation bias. In addition, output for high skill workers is difficult to measure. We exploit a natural experiment where cases are randomly assigned to attorneys within a public defender office to address the selection problem; the random assignment ensures that unobservables have the same distribution across attorneys. Using this data, we are able to investigate the efficiency of the labor market for attorneys, theories of human capital accumulation, and labor market discrimination. Despite a relatively flat wage distribution within cohorts, we find substantial heterogeneity in attorney productivity, as measured by case outcomes. A defendant assigned to a public defender at the 10th percentile of the productivity distribution has an expected sentence length 5.3 months (74% of the mean) longer than the defendant assigned to the public defender at the 90th percentile. Adding attorney fixed effects to a regression of sentence length on case and defendant characteristics doubles the explanatory power. While we do not find any impact of gender or law school quality, Hispanic attorneys in our data set have significantly higher productivity than non-Hispanic attorneys, as do attorneys with greater tenure. These findings suggest that there may be some discrimination in the labor market, and that the positive correlation of wages and tenure is due at least in part to human capital accumulation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

JEL Classification: J15, J24, J44, J70, K40

working papers series


Download This Paper

Date posted: April 16, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Abrams, David and Yoon, Albert, Understanding High Skill Worker Productivity Using Random Case Assignment in a Public Defender's Office (November 2007). 3rd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Papers. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1121006 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1121006

Contact Information

David S. Abrams (Contact Author)
University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )
3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
Albert Yoon
University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )
78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 952
Downloads: 104
Download Rank: 151,431
References:  37

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo2 in 0.312 seconds