NBER Working Papers by Michael D. Frakes

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Working Papers

December 2016Procrastination in the Workplace: Evidence from the U.S. Patent Office
with Melissa F. Wasserman: w22987
Despite much theoretical attention to the concept of procrastination and much exploration of this phenomenon in laboratory settings, there remain few empirical investigations into the practice of procrastination in real world contexts, especially in the workplace. In this paper, we attempt to fill these gaps by exploring procrastination among U.S. patent examiners. We find that nearly half of examiners’ first substantive reports are completed immediately prior to the operable deadlines. Moreover, we find a range of additional empirical markers to support that this “end-loading” of reviews results from a model of procrastination rather than various alternative time-consistent models of behavior. In one such approach, we take advantage of the natural experiment afforded by the Patent Office’...
July 2014Is the Time Allocated to Review Patent Applications Inducing Examiners to Grant Invalid Patents?: Evidence from Micro-Level Application Data
with Melissa F. Wasserman: w20337
We explore how examiner behavior is altered by the time allocated for reviewing patent applications. Insufficient examination time may hamper examiner search and rejection efforts, leaving examiners more inclined to grant invalid applications. To test this prediction, we use application-level data to trace the behavior of individual examiners over the course of a series of promotions that carry with them reductions in examination-time allocations. We find evidence demonstrating that such promotions are associated with reductions in examination scrutiny and increases in granting tendencies, as well as evidence that those additional patents being issued on the margin are of below-average quality.
January 2014Does Medical Malpractice Law Improve Health Care Quality?
with Anupam B. Jena: w19841
Despite the fundamental role of deterrence in justifying a system of medical malpractice law, surprisingly little evidence has been put forth to date bearing on the relationship between medical liability forces on the one hand and medical errors and health care quality on the other. In this paper, we estimate this relationship using clinically validated measures of health care treatment quality constructed with data from the 1979 to 2005 National Hospital Discharge Surveys and the 1987 to 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System records. Drawing upon traditional, remedy-centric tort reforms--e.g., damage caps--we estimate that the current liability system plays at most a modest role in inducing higher levels of health care quality. We contend that this limited independent role fo...
July 2005Does Falling Smoking Lead to Rising Obesity?
with Jonathan Gruber: w11483
The strong negative correlation over time between smoking rates and obesity have led some to suggest that reduced smoking is increasing weight gain in the U.S.. This conclusion is supported by the findings of Chou et al. (2004), who conclude that higher cigarette prices lead to increased body weight. We investigate this issue and find no evidence that reduced smoking leads to weight gain. Using the cigarette tax rather than the cigarette price and controlling for non-linear time effects, we find a negative effect of cigarette taxes on body weight, implying that reduced smoking leads to lower body weights. Yet our results, as well as Chou et al., imply implausibly large effects of smoking on body weight. Thus, we cannot confirm that falling smoking leads in a major way to rising obesit...

Published: Gruber, Jonathan and Michael Frakes. "Does Falling Smoking Lead To Rising Obesity?," Journal of Health Economics, 2006, v25(2,Mar), 183-197.

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