Mathijs de Vaan

ANET Lab Seminar Series: Mathijs de Vaan

Mathijs de Vaan (University of California at Berkeley): Social structure and organizational variation

Abstract | A well established literature has demonstrated that organizations, even those within the same industry, vary in how they conduct business. While some of this variation can be explained by differences in demand, a substantial fraction can be attributed to the behaviors of the members of an organization. There is relatively little research, however, on what informs these behaviors and why they vary, both between and within organizations. This paper addresses this question by studying the behavior of 1,036 Emergency Room physicians in 78 Massachusetts acute care hospitals. Specifically, we examine whether the decision of an Emergency Room physician to admit a patient to the hospital or to send the patient home is informed by the professional ties between ER physicians and specialists working in the hospital. We exploit quasi-random variation in work schedules across departments to estimate the impact of working with close versus more distant colleagues. We show that working with close colleagues increases the likelihood of admitting a patient which results in substantially higher medical spending. Observable health outcomes for marginal patients, however, do not change. Jointly these results highlight how the social structure in an organization may induce variation in key outcomes that characterize an organization.

Bio | Mathijs de Vaan is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley. He earned his PhD in Sociology at Columbia University. Mathijs’ research examines the role of social networks in economic exchange when there is uncertainty about the quality of the product or service that is provided. His research has been published in a variety of journals including PNAS, the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, and Management Science.