Learning on the Job: Evidence from Physicians in Training

David Chan (Stanford University)

Abstract: Learning on the job presents a tradeoff in making team decisions: Workers with less knowledge have less to contribute to team decisions, yet in order to learn, they may need to have an experiential stake in decision-making. This paper studies learning and influence in team decision-making among physician trainees. Exploiting a discontinuity in relative experience, I find reduced-form evidence of influence due to seniority between trainees. I specify a simple structural model of Bayesian information aggregation and define a benchmark of static efficiency that allocates influence to make the best decision using knowledge at hand. The vast majority of learning occurs only after trainees are senior and can influence decisions. Influence is approximately efficient between trainees, but trainees exert much more influence than is statically efficient relative to their supervisors, possibly because such influence contributes to experiential learning.

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