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Prices, Spatial Competition, and Heterogenous Producers: An Empirical Test

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  • Chad Syverson

Abstract

In markets where spatial competition is important, many models predict that average prices are lower in denser markets (i.e., those with more producers per unit area). Homogeneous-producer models attribute this effect solely to lower optimal markups. However, when producers instead differ in their production costs, a second mechanism also acts to lower equilibrium prices: competition-driven selection on costs. Consumers%u2019 greater substitution possibilities in denser markets make it more difficult for high-cost firms to profitably operate, truncating the equilibrium cost (and price) distributions from above. This selection process can be empirically distinguished from the homogenous-producer case because it implies that not only do average prices fall as density rises, but that upper-bound prices and price dispersion should also decline as well. I find empirical support for this process using a rich set of price data from U.S. readymixed concrete plants. Features of the industry offer an arguably exogenous source of producer density variation with which to identify these effects. I also show that the findings do not simply result from lower factor prices in dense markets, but rather because dense-market producers have low costs because they are more efficient.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12231.

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Date of creation: May 2006
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Publication status: published as Syverson, Chad. “Prices, Spatial Competition, and Heterogeneous Producers: An Empirical Test.” Journal of Industrial Economics 55, 2 (June 2007): 197-222.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12231

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  1. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan & Patrick Scholten, 2004. "Price Dispersion In The Small And In The Large: Evidence From An Internet Price Comparison Site," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 463-496, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Ali Hortaçsu & Chad Syverson, 2007. "Cementing Relationships: Vertical Integration, Foreclosure, Productivity, and Prices," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 250-301.
  2. Masayuki Morikawa, 2011. "Economies of Density and Productivity in Service Industries: An Analysis of Personal Service Industries Based on Establishment-Level Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 179-192, February.
  3. Toshihiro Okubo & Pierre M. Picard & Jacques-François Thisse, 2008. "The spatial selection of heterogeneous firms," Discussion Paper Series 229, Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University.
  4. Foster, Lucia & Haltiwanger, John C. & Syverson, Chad, 2005. "Reallocation, Firm Turnover, and Efficiency: Selection on Productivity or Profitability?," IZA Discussion Papers 1705, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Alex Coad, 2009. "On the distribution of product price and quality," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 19(4), pages 589-604, August.
  6. Akerman, Anders & Forslid, Rikard, 2009. "Firm Heterogeneity and Country Size Dependent Market Entry Costs," CCES Discussion Paper Series 11, Center for Research on Contemporary Economic Systems, Graduate School of Economics, Hitotsubashi University.

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