Working Papers

Abstract: We study the spatial expansion of banks in response to banking deregulation in the 1980s and 90s. During this period, large banks expanded rapidly, mostly by adding new branches in new locations, while many small banks exited. We document that large banks sorted into the densest markets, but that sorting weakened over time as large banks expanded to more marginal markets in search of locations with a relative abundance of retail deposits. This allowed large banks to reduce their dependence on expensive wholesale funding and grow further. To rationalize these patterns we propose a theory of multi-branch banks that sort into heterogeneous locations. Our theory yields two forms of sorting. First, span-of-control sorting incentivizes top firms to select the largest markets and smaller banks the more marginal ones. Second, mismatch sorting incentivizes banks to locate in more marginal locations, where deposits are abundant relative to loan demand, to better align their deposits and loans and minimize wholesale funding. Together, these two forms of sorting account well for the sorting patterns we document in the data.

Journal Publications

Abstract: We study the number, size, and location of a firm’s plants. The firm’s decision balances the benefit of delivering goods and services to customers using multiple plants with the cost of setting up and managing these plants, and the potential for cannibalization that arises as their number increases. Modeling the decisions of heterogeneous firms in an economy with a vast number of widely distinct locations is complex because it involves a large combinatorial problem. Using insights from discrete geometry, we study a tractable limit case of this problem in which these forces operate at a local level. Our analysis delivers predictions on sorting across space for industries with many plants per firm. Compared with less productive firms, productive firms place more plants in dense high-rent locations and place fewer plants in markets with low density and low rents. Controlling for the number of plants, productive firms also operate larger plants than those operated by less productive firms. We present evidence consistent with these and several other predictions using U.S. establishment-level data.


Replication Files

Abstract: US firms in service industries increasingly operate in more local markets. Employment, sales, and spending on fixed costs have increased rapidly in these industries. These changes have favored top firms, leading to increasing national concentration. Top firms in service industries have grown by expanding into new local markets, predominantly small and mid-sized US cities. Market concentration at the local level has decreased in all US cities, particularly in cities that were initially small. These facts are consistent with the availability of new fixed-cost-intensive technologies that yield lower marginal costs in service sectors. The entry of top service firms into new local markets has led to substantial unmeasured productivity growth, particularly in small markets.

Replication Files

Abstract: Using employer-employee matched and firm production quantity and input data for Portuguese firms, we study the endogenous response of productivity to firm reorganizations as measured by changes in the number of management layers. We show that, as a result of an exogenous demand or productivity shock that makes the firm reorganize and add a management layer, quantity-based productivity increases by about 6%, while revenue-based productivity drops by around 3%. Such a reorganization makes the firm more productive but also increases the quantity produced to an extent that lowers the price charged by the firm and, as a result, its revenue-based productivity as well.

Replication Files

Abstract: We study the internal organization of French manufacturing firms. We divide the employees of each firm into “layers” using occupational categories. Layers are hierarchical in that the typical worker in a higher layer earns more, and the typical firm occupies less of them. The probability of adding/dropping a layer is positively/negatively correlated with value added. Reorganization, through changes in layers, is essential to understanding how firms grow. firms that expand substantially add layers and pay lower average wages in all preexisting layers. In contrast, firms that expand little and do not reorganize pay higher average wages in all preexisting layers.

Online Appendix

Replication Files

Abstract: A firm’s productivity depends on how production is organized. To understand this relationship we develop a theory of an economy where firms with heterogeneous demands use labor and knowledge to produce. Entrepreneurs decide the number of layers of management and the knowledge and span of control of each agent. As a result, in the theory, heterogeneity in demand leads to heterogeneity in productivity and other firms’ outcomes. We use the theory to analyze the impact of international trade on organization and calibrate the model to the U.S. economy. Our results indicate that, as a result of a bilateral trade liberalization, firms that export will increase the number of layers of management. The new organization of the average exporter results in higher productivity, although the responses of productivity are heterogeneous across these firms. Liberalizing trade from autarky to the level of openness in 2002 results in a 1% increase in productivity for the marginal exporter and a 1.8% increase in its revenue productivity. Endogenous organization increases the gains from trade by 41% relative to standard models.

Abstract: We propose a framework to study the impact of information and communication technology on growth through its impact on organization and innovation. Agents accumulate knowledge to use available technologies and invent new ones. The use of a technology requires the development of organizations to coordinate the work of experts, which takes time. We find that while advances in information technology always increase growth, improvements in communication technology may lead to lower growth and even to stagnation, since the payoff to exploiting available technologies through organizations increases relative to the payoff from developing new innovations.

Abstract: We present an equilibrium theory of the organization of work in an economy where knowledge is an essential input in production and agents are heterogeneous in skill. Agents organize production by matching with others in knowledge hierarchies designed to use and communicate their knowledge efficiently. Relative to autarky, organization leads to larger cross-sectional differences in knowledge and wages: low skill workers learn and earn relatively less. We show that improvements in the technology to acquire knowledge lead to opposite implications on wage inequality and organization than reductions in communication costs.

Abstract: We use a simplified version of Garicano and Rossi-Hansberg (2005) to understand the impact of improvements in communications technology at the turn of the twentieth century on wages and organization. Improvements in communication technology allow individuals of different skills to abandon self-employment and form teams with each other. In particular, they allow high-skill agents to leverage their knowledge by specializing in the hardest tasks and hiring lowskill agents to do the routine tasks. Organization then exploits the complementarities between individual skills, which in turn affects the distribution of earnings.

Abstract: How does the formation of cross-country teams affect the organization of work and the structure of wages? To study this question, we propose a theory of the assignment of heterogeneous agents into hierarchical teams, where less skilled agents specialize in production and more skilled agents specialize in problem solving. We first analyze the properties of the competitive equilibrium of the model in a closed economy, and show that the model has a unique and efficient solution. We then study the equilibrium of a two-country model (North and South), where countries differ in their distributions of ability, and in which agents in different countries can join together in teams. We refer to this type of integration as globalization. Globalization leads to better matches for all southern workers but only for the best northern workers. As a result, we show that globalization increases wage inequality among nonmanagers in the South, but not necessarily in the North. We also study how globalization affects the size distribution of firms and the patterns of consumption and trade in the global economy.

Abstract: Since the seminal work of Lawrence F. Katz and Kevin M. Murphy (1992), the study of wage inequality has taken as its starting point a neoclassical constant-elasticity-of-substitution production function using as inputs capital and low- and high-skill labor. This approach assumes that the organization of production is fixed and determined by a particular specification of technology, and it ignores both the source of the interaction between workers and the organizational aspects of this interaction. These shortcomings are particularly important in light of growing empirical evidence that points, first, to the importance of decreases in the cost of processing and communicating information and, second, to the complementarity between organizational change and adjustments in the distribution of wages (e.g., Timothy F. Bresnahan et al., 2002). This paper argues that theories that seek to guide empirical research on these areas must put knowledge and information at the center of the analysis of organizations and link the organizational structure with aggregate variables via equilibrium frameworks.

Books, Chapters, and Surveys

Organizing Offshoring: Middle Managers and Communication Costs

(with Pol Antràs, and Luis Garicano)

The Organization of Firms in a Global Economy, Harvard University Press, 2008 (Edited by Elhanan Helpman, Dalia Marin, and Thierry Verdier)

Citation, Bibtex