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Differential Pricing When Costs Differ: A Welfare Analysis

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Abstract

This paper analyzes the welfare effects of monopoly differential pricing in the important but largely neglected case where marginal costs of service differ across consumer groups. Compared to uniform pricing, cost-based differential pricing generally raises total welfare. Although total output may fall or even its allocation across consumer groups may worsen, under a minor demand curvature condition at least one of these changes must be beneficial and dominate if the other is not. Aggregate consumer welfare also rises (under a mildly tighter condition). The source of consumer gains is not cost savings from output reallocation, which flow to the firm. Rather, to induce output reallocation the firm must vary its prices, thereby creating price dispersion without an upward bias in the average price. This improves consumer welfare even in cases where output falls. We contrast these results with those in the extensive literature on third-degree price discrimination and, furthermore, provide sufficient conditions for beneficial differential pricing when both demand elasticities and costs differ.

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Paper provided by Georgetown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number gueconwpa~13-13-01.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2013
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Handle: RePEc:geo:guwopa:gueconwpa~13-13-01

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Postal: Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
Phone: 202-687-6074
Fax: 202-687-6102
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Web page: http://econ.georgetown.edu/

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Postal: Marcia Suss Administrative Officer Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
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Web: http://econ.georgetown.edu/

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Keywords: differential pricing; price discrimination; demand curvature; pass-through rate JEL Codes:;

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  1. I�aki Aguirre & Simon Cowan & John Vickers, 2010. "Monopoly Price Discrimination and Demand Curvature," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1601-15, September.
  2. Schmalensee, Richard., 1980. "Output and welfare implications of monopolistic third-degree price discrimination," Working papers 1095-80., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  3. Glenn Ellison, 2003. "A Model of Add-on Pricing," NBER Working Papers 9721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Simon Cowan, 2012. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination and Consumer Surplus," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(2), pages 333-345, 06.
  5. Paolo Bertoletti, 2009. "On the output criterion for price discrimination," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 29(4), pages 2951-2956.
  6. Schwartz, Marius, 1990. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination and Output: Generalizing a Welfare Result," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1259-62, December.
  7. Jerry A. Hausman & Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason, 1988. "Price Discrimination and Patent Policy," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 19(2), pages 253-265, Summer.
  8. Nahata, Babu & Ostaszewski, Krzysztof & Sahoo, P K, 1990. "Direction of Price Changes in Third-Degree Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1254-58, December.
  9. Mark Armstrong & John Vickers, 1991. "Welfare Effects of Price Discrimination by a Regulated Monopolist," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(4), pages 571-581, Winter.
  10. Layson, Stephen K, 1998. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination with Interdependent Demands," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(4), pages 511-24, December.
  11. Jonathan E. Nuechterlein & Philip J. Weiser, 2007. "Digital Crossroads: American Telecommunications Policy in the Internet Age," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026264066x, December.
  12. Armstrong, Mark & Porter, Robert, 2007. "Preface to the Handbook of Industrial Organization, Volume 3," Handbook of Industrial Organization, Elsevier.
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