rustin partow

Ph.D. Candidate
Economics Department
University of California, Los Angeles

Contact me at: rjpartow at

I'm a labor economist combining theory with applied methods and am mainly interested in career dynamics in the skilled professions. I am on the 2019/20 job market and will be available for interviews at the ASSA Meeting in San Diego.

Rustin Partow
job market paper
The Inverted Job Ladder in Skilled Professions [PDF]

How do workers initially match with firms, and how do these matches improve over time? A large job ladder literature devoted to this question proposes a unanimous surplus-ranking of firms in which poached workers move to better firms while displaced workers move to worse firms. Using a new historical dataset on lawyers, I rank law firms based on where their lawyers went to school, finding that poached lawyers move to worse firms while displaced lawyers move to better firms. Guided by these and several other stylized facts, I propose an alternative theory to the standard job ladder approach. In my model, each worker's surplus-maximizing firm assignment is a function of her talent. Incumbent firms privately learn how talented their workers are, and thus only allow adversely selected worker types to be poached. In equilibrium, poached workers move down in rank (to firms where they are more productive). Meanwhile, workers who are retained are revealed over time to have been under-placed, so random displacement shocks move them up in rank (to firms where they are more productive) by temporarily removing the adverse selection problem. The model is well-suited for quantifying the value of labor market institutions that publicly certify talent. By estimating the model, I find that more than 20% of output is lost to misallocation induced by informational frictions. Pre-job market screening devices can substantially raise average earnings, creating a rationale to regulate the timing of job recruitment to prevent it from disrupting informative competition in academics.

working papers
Collusive Capacity, [PDF] with Daehyun Kim

It is widely believed that cartels with too many members are destined to fail. The standard argument is that as the number of cartel members increases, shares of collusive profit diminish relative to deviation profits. We show that this argument is built on unreasonable assumptions about plant capacity. We add plant capacity choices to an otherwise standard dynamic oligopoly game. We consider the unsophisticated and easily enforced strategy in which each firm simply chooses plant capacity equal to static Nash output. Our main result is that as the number of firms goes to infinity, the critical discount factor required to sustain collusion on the monopoly price converges to less than 0.63. Thus, collusion is (quite) robust to the number of firms. This result applies to a broad class of demand functions and to both Cournot and Bertrand competition.

Retention and Adapative Paysetting in Large Organizations, with Moshe Buchinsky and John deFiguereido (link coming soon!)

Should government wages be marked to market indices? If so, which indices--occupational or spatial ones? We present new evidence on this important policy question using administrative payroll data from the US federal government. In order to study how different pay indexation policies influence retention, we estimate a structural model of employee quit behavior. To estimate the model, we exploit variation in pay caused by a pay-indexation policy known as the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1991 (FEPCA). Our identification strategy exploits a unique, Bartik-like feature of FEPCA's implementation. FEPCA measured inside-outside pay disparties for a rich set of employee groups, but chose to base subsequent pay supplements on the average pay gap in each of 32 localities. Thus, employees' "treatment" was largely determined by the plausibly exogenous composition of nearby federal workers.

work in progress
  • Estimation of Internal Labor Supply as a Test for Tacitly Collusive Wage-Setting
  • Do High Hours Signal Ability? Testing a Rat Race Hypothesis
  • How does Signaling Influence Efficiency and Inequality? Evidence from Staggered Introductions of CPA Exams
  • Documenting the Size of Implicit Income Variability Penalties in Progressive Income Tax Codes
  • The Effects of Income Variability Penalties on Risky Crop Choices