Capacity Constraints and the Provision of Public Services: The Case of Workers in Public Health Clinics

36 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019

See all articles by Matthew Harris

Matthew Harris

University of Tennessee, Knoxville - College of Business Administration

Yinan Liu

University of Tennessee, Knoxville - Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy

Ian McCarthy

Emory University - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 2019

Abstract

Unlike in the production of most goods, changes in capacity for labor-intensive services only affect outcomes of interest insofar as service providers change the way they allocate their time in response to those capacity changes. In this paper, we examine how public sector service providers respond to unexpected capacity constraints in the specific context of public health clinics. We exploit an exogenous reduction in public health clinic capacity to quantify nurses' trade-off between patients treated and time spent with each patient, which we treat as a proxy for a quality v. quantity decision. We provide evidence that these small and generally insignificant effects on nurse time favor public sector employees prioritizing quality of each interaction over clearing the patient queue.

Suggested Citation

Harris, Matthew and Liu, Yinan and McCarthy, Ian, Capacity Constraints and the Provision of Public Services: The Case of Workers in Public Health Clinics (March 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25706, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3363444

Matthew Harris (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee, Knoxville - College of Business Administration ( email )

TN
United States

Yinan Liu

University of Tennessee, Knoxville - Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy ( email )

1640 Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996-3340
United States

Ian McCarthy

Emory University - Department of Economics ( email )

201 Dowman Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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