The Inefficiency of Worker Time Use
Decio Coviello (HEC Montréal), Andrea Ichino (Bologna University) and Nicola Persico (NYU)
Abstract: Much work is carried out in short, interrupted segments.This phenomenon, whichwe label task juggling, has been overlooked by economists. We study the work schedules of some judges in Italy documenting that they do juggle tasks and that juggling causallylowers their productivity substantially.To measure the size of this ineﬃciency, we show that although all these judges receive the same workload, those who are induced exogenously to juggle more trials at once instead of working sequentially on few of the mat the same time, take longer to complete their portfolios of cases. Task juggling seems instead to have no adverse eﬀect on the quality of the judges’ decisions, as measuredby the percent of decisions appealed.To identify these causal eﬀects we exploit thelottery assigning cases to judges and the procedural prescription requiring the ﬁrst hearing to be held within 60 days from ﬁling. We view these ﬁndings as intriguing because task juggling implies that workers operate below their productivity frontier, at least as conventionally deﬁned. We conclude discussing reasons why some judges are more ineﬃcient than others.
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JEL-Code: J0; K0; M5.
Keywords: Individual production function, work scheduling, duration of trials