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 hypothesis in which poached workers move to better firms while displaced workers move to worse firms. This paper shows that the job ladder in skilled professions is inverted, with downward-directed poaching and upward-directed displacement. I provide empirical evidence for this using a new historical dataset on lawyers. Guided by the evidence, I develop a model of dynamic labor market assignment that explains why the job ladder for lawyers is inverted, and is likely to be in most skilled professions. Each firm's comparative advantage is to hire a worker whose location in the talent distribution matches its own location in the job ladder. Firms privately learn how talented their workers are and only allow below-average worker types (lemons) to be poached. Hence, poached workers move down the ladder to firms that are more specialized in lemons. Workers are revealed to have been under-placed when they are retained. Thus, by temporarily removing the lemons problem, random displacements help under-placed workers move up the ladder. I structurally estimate the model in order to quantify misallocation and appraise potential labor market reforms. I estimate 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 ban premature job recruitments that would otherwise disrupt academic competition.

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