Learning on the Job: Evidence from Physicians in Training

Abstract: Learning on the job creates a tradeoff in team decisions: Workers with less knowledge have less to contribute to team decisions, but experiential learning may require that trainees also have a stake in decisions to learn. This paper studies learning and influence in team decisions among physicians 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, which 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 receive much more influence than statically efficient relative to supervising physicians, possibly to improve experiential learning.