Bargaining over labor: do patients have any power?


Using data on births from Australia, Joshua S. Gans and Andrew Leigh estimate the level of patient bargaining power in negotiations over birth timing.

In doing so, they exploit the fact that parents do not like to have children born on the 'inauspicious' dates of February 29 and April 1. The authors show that, in general, the birth rate is lower on these dates, and argue that this reflects parent preferences. When these inauspicious dates abut a weekend, this creates a potential conflict between avoiding the inauspicious date, and avoiding the weekend. We find that in approximately three-quarters of cases, this conflict is resolved in favor of the physician. This suggests that while doctors have more power than patients, patients are sometimes able to influence medical decisions for non-medical reasons.

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