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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Econ 221 - Industrial Organization Seminar

LOCATION: University of California at Berkeley, 639 Evans, except where indicated
TIME: Thursdays, 4:00-5:30PM

Cover page of An Estimable Demand System for a Large Auction Platform Market

An Estimable Demand System for a Large Auction Platform Market


Economists have developed a range of empirically tractable demand systems for fixed price markets. But auction mechanisms also play an important part in allocating goods, and yet existing empirical auction techniques treat each auction in isolation, obscuring market interactions. Here we provide a framework for estimating a demand system in a large auction platform market with a dynamic population of buyers, heterogeneous objects and unit demand. We construct a model of repeated second-price auctions in which bidders have multidimensional private valuations, developing an equilibrium concept under which strategies reflect option values. We prove existence of this equilibrium and characterize the ergodic distribution of types. Having developed a demand system, we show that it is non-parametrically identified from panel data. Relatively simple nonparametric and semiparametric estimation procedures are proposed and tested by Monte Carlo simulation. Our analysis highlights the importance of both dynamic bidding strategies and panel data sample selection issues when analyzing these markets.

Cover page of The Relation Between Competition and Investment – Towards a Synthesis

The Relation Between Competition and Investment – Towards a Synthesis


Using a general two-stage framework, this paper gives sufficient conditions for increasing competition to have negative or positive effects on R&D-investment, respectively. Both possibilities arise in plausible situations, even if one uses relatively narrow definitions of increasing competition. The paper also shows that competition is more likely to increase the investments of leaders than those of laggards. When R&D-spillovers are strong, competition is less likely to increase investments. The paper also identifies conditions under which low initial levels of competition make positive effects of competition on investment more likely. Extending the basic framework, the paper shows that separation of ownership and control, endogenous entry and cumulative investments make positive effects of competition on investment more likely. Imperfect upstream competition weakens the effects of competition on investment. Keywords: competition, investment, cost reduction. JEL: L13, L20, L22.

Cover page of Making Sense of Non-Binding Retail-Price Recommendations

Making Sense of Non-Binding Retail-Price Recommendations


We model non-binding retail-price recommendations (RPRs) as a communication device facilitating coordination in vertical supply relations. Assuming both repeated vertical trade and asymmetric information about production costs, we show that RPRs may be part of a relational contract, communicating private information from manufacturer to retailer that is indispensable for maximizing joint surplus. We show that this contract is self-enforcing if the retailer’s profit is independent of production costs and punishment strategies are chosen appropriately. We also extend our analysis to settings where consumer demand is variable or depends directly on the manufacturer’s RPRs. Keywords: vertical relationships, relational contracts, asymmetric information, price recommendations. JEL Classification: D23; D43; L14; L15.

Cover page of Structural Estimation of Price Adjustment Costs in the European Car Market

Structural Estimation of Price Adjustment Costs in the European Car Market


Exchange rate pass-through literature identifies an important delay in price responses, especially in differentiated products. Using the methodology of Bajari, Benkard and Levin (2007), I estimate the structural price adjustment cost consistent with this fact in the European car market. My approach differs from previous work in that my framework allows me greater flexibility in estimating dynamic games. My main result is that relatively small adjustment costs rationalize the observed inertia in car prices. Intuitively, forward looking price setters face an autocorrelated economic environment (like the nominal exchange rates, GDP and wages) such that just a small cost of repricing justify the persistent prices in the European car market. Additionally, my estimates stress a market-specific heterogeneity in price stickiness suggesting a new dimension of pricing to market behavior.

Cover page of The Effect of Information on Auction Outcomes: A Large Scale Field Experiment

The Effect of Information on Auction Outcomes: A Large Scale Field Experiment


When choosing auction mechanisms sellers can decide how much information to reveal to buyers regarding the quality of the goods sold. Using a field experiment in a market for wholesale automobile auctions we are able to measure the effects of information on auction outcomes. We create random assignments of information about quality, and manipulate the availability of information over time. Our results suggest that, as the theoretical literature generally predicts, more information increases expected revenues. Furthermore, by measuring the effects on different quality grades of automobiles it seems like the increase in revenues are due to more competition for any given vehicle. Finally, we quantify the value of gathering information and releasing it to potential buyers in this setup. JEL classifications C93, D44, D82, L15.

Cover page of Beyond Testing: Empirical Models of Insurance Markets

Beyond Testing: Empirical Models of Insurance Markets


We describe recent advances in the empirical analysis of insurance markets. This new research proposes ways to estimate individual demand for insurance and the relationship between prices and insurer costs in the presence of adverse and advantageous selection. We discuss how these models permit the measurement of welfare distortions arising from asymmetric information and the welfare consequences of potential government policy responses. We also discuss some challenges in modeling imperfect competition between insurers, and outline a series of open research questions. JEL classification numbers: C51, D82. Keywords: Insurance markets; Asymmetric information; Adverse selection.

Cover page of Scarcity of Ideas and R&D Options: Use it, Lose it or Bank it.

Scarcity of Ideas and R&D Options: Use it, Lose it or Bank it.


We investigate rewards to R&D in a model where substitute ideas for innovation arrive to random recipients at random times. By foregoing investment in a current idea, society as a whole preserves an option to invest in a better idea for the same market niche, but with delay. Because successive ideas may occur to different people, there is a conflict between private and social optimality. We characterize the welfare-maximizing reward structure when the social planner learns over time about the arrival rate of ideas, and when private recipients of ideas can bank their ideas for future use. We argue that private incentives to create socially valuable options can be achieved by giving higher rewards where "ideas are scarce."

Cover page of Is Pay-For-Performance Detrimental to Innovation?

Is Pay-For-Performance Detrimental to Innovation?


Previous research in economics shows that paying the agent based on performance induces the agent to exert more effort thereby enhancing productivity. On the other hand, research in psychology argues that performance-based financial incentives may inhibit creativity and innovation. In a controlled laboratory experiment, we provide evidence that the combination of tolerance for early failure and reward for long-term success is effective in motivating innovation. Subjects under such an incentive scheme explore more and are more likely to discover a novel business strategy than subjects under fixed-wage and standard pay-for-performance incentive schemes. We also find evidence that the threat of termination can undermine incentives for innovation, while golden parachutes can alleviate these innovation-reducing effects. Our results suggest that appropriately designed incentives are useful in motivating creativity and innovation.

Cover page of Anti-Lemons: School Reputation and Educational Quality

Anti-Lemons: School Reputation and Educational Quality


Friedman (1962) argued that a free market in which schools compete based upon their reputation would lead to an efficient supply of educational services. This paper explores this issue by building a tractable model in which rational individuals go to school and accumulate skill valued in a perfectly competitive labor market. To this it adds one ingredient: school reputation in the spirit of Holmstrom (1982). The first result is that if schools cannot select students based upon their ability, then a free market is indeed efficient and encourages entry by high productivity schools. However, if schools are allowed to select on ability, then competition leads to stratification by parental income, increased transmission of income inequality, and reduced student effort---in some cases lowering the accumulation of skill. The model accounts for several (sometimes puzzling) findings in the educational literature, and implies that national standardized testing can play a key role in enhancing learning.