The RAND Journal of Economics

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Latest documents

  • All‐units discounts as a partial foreclosure device

    We investigate the strategic effects of all‐units discounts (AUDs) used by a dominant firm in the presence of a capacity‐constrained rival. Due to the limited capacity of the rival, the dominant firm has a captive portion of the buyer's demand for the single product. As compared to linear pricing, the dominant firm can use AUDs to go beyond its captive portion by tying its captive demand with part of the competitive demand and partially foreclose its small rival. When the rival's capacity level is well below relevant demand, AUDs reduce the buyer's surplus.

  • Optimal regulation of network expansion

    We model the regulation of irreversible capacity expansion by a firm with private information about capacity costs, where investments are financed from the firm's cash flows and demand is stochastic. The optimal mechanism is implemented by a revenue tax that increases with the price cap. If the asymmetric information has large support, then the optimal mechanism consists of a laissez‐faire regime for low‐cost firms. That is, the firm's price cap corresponds to that of an unregulated monopolist, and it is not taxed. This “maximal distortion at the top” is necessary to provide information rents, as direct subsidies are not feasible.

  • Dead poets' property—how does copyright influence price?

    Copyrights create long‐lived intellectual property in goods ranging from science, literature, and music to news, film, and software. The economic effects of copyright, however, are difficult to identify in modern settings. This article exploits an unintended differential increase in copyright length under the UK Copyright Act of 1814—in favor of books by dead authors—to examine the effects of longer copyright terms on price. We find that a doubling in copyright length was associated with a substantial (roughly 50%) increase in the price of books. Additional years of copyright improved publishers' ability to practice intertemporal price discrimination.

  • Selling information to competitive firms

    Internal agency conflicts distort firms' choices and reduce social welfare. To limit these distortions, principals dealing with privately informed agents often acquire information from specialized intermediaries, such as auditing and certification companies, that are able to ascertain, and credibly disclose, agents' private information. We study how the structures of both the information provision and the final good markets affect information accuracy. A monopolistic information provider may supply imprecise information to perfectly competitive firms, even if the precision of this information can be increased at no cost. This is due to a price effect of information: although more accurate information reduces agency costs and allows firms to increase production, it also results in a lower price in the final good market, which reduces principals' willingness to pay for information.

  • Complements and substitutes in sequential auctions: the case of water auctions

    We use data on sequential water auctions to estimate demand when units are complements or substitutes. A sequential English auction model determines the estimating structural equations. When units are complements, one bidder wins all units by paying a high price for the first unit, thus deterring others from bidding on subsequent units. When units are substitutes, different bidders win the units with positive probability, paying prices similar in magnitude. We recover individual demand consistent with this stark pattern of outcomes and confirm it is not collusive but consistent with noncooperative behavior. Demand estimates are biased if one ignores these features.

  • Middlemen: the good, the bad, and the ugly

    We examine the role of a middleman as an expert in markets. A seller's effort determines the quality of the good. Buyers observe neither the seller's effort nor the good's quality. A middleman, after observing a signal about the good's quality, decides whether to purchase it and then to sell it. We show that the presence of a middleman may either reduce or exacerbate the seller's moral hazard problem. We also consider a model with multiple middlemen. We find that the seller's effort is minimized if either the middleman's signal is perfect or the number of middlemen is large.

  • Consumer obfuscation by a multiproduct firm

    This article shows that a multiproduct firm has incentives to obfuscate its products by using search costs to induce consumers to search through its products in a particular order. The consumers who draw high valuations of the first product terminate their search earlier than the consumers who draw low valuations. Thus, the firm has incentives to raise the price of the earlier searched product. The optimal search cost for an obfuscated product is such that consumers inspect the product only if the match values of the previously searched goods have been very poor.

  • Patent rights, innovation, and firm exit

    We study the causal impact of patent invalidation on subsequent innovation and exit by patent holders. The analysis uses patent litigation data from the US Federal Circuit Court and exploits random allocation of judges to control for endogeneity of the decision. Invalidation causes patent holders to reduce patenting over a five‐year window by 50% on average, but the effect is heterogeneous. The impact is large for small‐ and medium‐sized firms, particularly where they face many large competitors, and for patents central to their research portfolio. We find no significant effect for large firms. Invalidation also increases exit from patenting by small firms.

  • Consumer search with observational learning

    This article studies observational learning in a consumer search environment. Consumers observe the purchasing decision of a predecessor with similar preferences. Consumers rationally emulate by initiating their search at the firm from which their predecessor purchased, free‐riding on search effort, and reacting less to price changes. Prices are nonmonotone in search costs and may be as low as marginal costs. We discuss several extensions and show that the effect of emulation on prices is stronger when (i) the number of firms increases, (ii) consumers' first visits are more elastic with respect to market shares, and (iii) prices are adjusted more frequently.

  • The effect of ad blocking on website traffic and quality

    Ad blocking software allows Internet users to obtain information without generating ad revenue for site owners, potentially undermining investments in content. We explore the impact of site‐level ad blocker usage on website quality, as inferred from traffic. We find that each additional percentage point of site visitors blocking ads reduces its traffic by 0.67% over 35 months. Impacted sites provide less content over time, providing corroboration for the mechanism. Effects on revenue are compounded; ad blocking reduces visits, and remaining visitors blocking ads do not generate revenue. We conclude that ad blocking poses a threat to the ad‐supported web.

Featured documents

  • All‐units discounts as a partial foreclosure device

    We investigate the strategic effects of all‐units discounts (AUDs) used by a dominant firm in the presence of a capacity‐constrained rival. Due to the limited capacity of the rival, the dominant firm has a captive portion of the buyer's demand for the single product. As compared to linear pricing,...

  • Mergers with interfirm bundling: a case of pharmaceutical cocktails

    Pharmaceutical cocktails often consist of two or more drugs produced by competing firms. The component drugs are often also sold as stand‐alone products. We analyze the effects of a merger between two pharmaceutical firms selling complements for colorectal cancer treatment. In this setting there...

  • Multidimensional heterogeneity and the economic importance of risk and matching: evidence from contractual data and field experiments

    We measure the cost of risk and the benefits of matching heterogeneous workers to risk levels within a firm that pays its workers piece rates. The workers of this firm are heterogeneous in two dimensions: risk preferences and ability. Our results suggest that workers’ willingness to pay to avoid...

  • Dynamic limit pricing

    I study a multiperiod model of limit pricing under one‐sided incomplete information. I characterize pooling and separating equilibria and their existence and determine when these involve limit pricing. For some parameter constellations, the unique equilibrium surviving a D1 type refinement involves ...

  • Ex post unbalanced tournaments

    Tournaments create strong incentives under the assumption that the competition between the agents is balanced. If, at the outset, one agent is stronger than the other, the tournament is ex ante unbalanced and incentives break down. Handicaps can in this case restore incentives. In practice,...

  • Measuring consumer switching costs in the television industry

    In this article, I develop and estimate a model of dynamic consumer behavior with switching costs in the market for paid‐television services. I estimate the parameters of the structural model using data on cable and satellite systems across local US television markets over the period 1992–2006. The ...

  • Optimal public funding for research: a theoretical analysis

    This article studies how a government should distribute funds among research institutions and how it should allocate them to basic and applied research. Institutions differ in reputation and efficiency and have an information advantage. The government should award funding for basic research to...

  • Quantifying search and switching costs in the US auto insurance industry

    I estimate demand for auto insurance in the presence of two types of market frictions: search and switching costs. I develop an integrated utility‐maximizing model in which consumers decide over which and how many companies to search and from which company to purchase. My modelling approach...

  • Naked exclusion with minimum‐share requirements

    We consider a class of contracts in which buyers commit to giving a seller some minimum share of their total purchases. We show that such contracts can be used by an incumbent seller to reduce the probability of entry by a rival seller when the incumbent can commit to its selling price as part of...

  • On absolute auctions and secret reserve prices

    From a theory viewpoint, the use of auctions with zero public reserve prices, also called absolute auctions, or of auctions with secret reserve prices, is somewhat puzzling despite being common. By allowing that buyers differ in their processing of past data regarding how the participation rate...

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