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The Limits of Price Discrimination

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  • Dirk Bergemann
  • Benjamin Brooks
  • Stephen Morris

Abstract

We analyze the welfare consequences of a monopolist having additional information about consumers' tastes, beyond the prior distribution; the additional information can be used to charge different prices to different segments of the market, i.e., carry out "third degree price discrimination." We show that the segmentation and pricing induced by the additional information can achieve every combination of consumer and producer surplus such that: (i) consumer surplus is nonnegative, (ii) producer surplus is at least as high as profits under the uniform monopoly price, and (iii) total surplus does not exceed the surplus generated by efficient trade. (JEL D42, D83, L12)

Suggested Citation

  • Dirk Bergemann & Benjamin Brooks & Stephen Morris, 2015. "The Limits of Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 921-957, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:105:y:2015:i:3:p:921-57
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20130848
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2013. "Robust Predictions in Games With Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1251-1308, July.
    2. Iñaki Aguirre & Simon Cowan & John Vickers, 2010. "Monopoly Price Discrimination and Demand Curvature," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1601-1615, September.
    3. 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 1254-1258, December.
    4. Emir Kamenica & Matthew Gentzkow, 2011. "Bayesian Persuasion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2590-2615, October.
    5. Curtis R. Taylor, 2004. "Consumer Privacy and the Market for Customer Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(4), pages 631-650, Winter.
    6. Robert J. Aumann, 1995. "Repeated Games with Incomplete Information," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011476, March.
    7. Simon Cowan, 2012. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination and Consumer Surplus," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(2), pages 333-345, June.
    8. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2013. "Robust Predictions in Games With Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1251-1308, July.
    9. Varian, Hal R, 1985. "Price Discrimination and Social Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 870-875, September.
    10. Mussa, Michael & Rosen, Sherwin, 1978. "Monopoly and product quality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 301-317, August.
    11. John Riley & Richard Zeckhauser, 1983. "Optimal Selling Strategies: When to Haggle, When to Hold Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(2), pages 267-289.
    12. Simon Cowan, 2016. "Welfare-increasing third-degree price discrimination," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 47(2), pages 326-340, May.
    13. repec:cwl:cwldpp:1821rrr is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2013. "Robust Predictions in Games With Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1251-1308, July.
    15. Eric Maskin & John Riley, 1984. "Monopoly with Incomplete Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 171-196, Summer.
    16. Schmalensee, Richard, 1981. "Output and Welfare Implications of Monopolistic Third-Degree Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(1), pages 242-247, March.
    17. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2013. "Robust Predictions in Games With Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1251-1308, July.
    18. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Simon Cowan, 2016. "Welfare-increasing third-degree price discrimination," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 47(2), pages 326-340, May.
    2. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2016. "Information Design, Bayesian Persuasion, and Bayes Correlated Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 586-591, May.
    3. Roesler, Anne-Katrin & Szentes, Balázs, 2017. "Buyer-optimal learning and monopoly pricing," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 84061, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Hedlund, Jonas, 2017. "Bayesian persuasion by a privately informed sender," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 167(C), pages 229-268.
    5. Matthew Gentzkow & Emir Kamenica, 2014. "Costly Persuasion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 457-462, May.
    6. Belleflamme,Paul & Peitz,Martin, 2015. "Industrial Organization," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107069978.
    7. Roland Strausz, 2017. "A Theory of Crowdfunding: A Mechanism Design Approach with Demand Uncertainty and Moral Hazard," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(6), pages 1430-1476, June.
    8. Carroll, Gabriel, 2016. "Informationally robust trade and limits to contagion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 334-361.
    9. Ritz, Robert A., 2014. "Price discrimination and limits to arbitrage: An analysis of global LNG markets," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 324-332.
    10. von Wangenheim, Jonas, 2017. "Consumer-Optimal Information Design," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 53, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    11. Asseyer, Andreas, 2016. "Optimal Information Disclosure and Collusion," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145779, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    12. Andreas Leibbrandt, 2016. "Behavioral Constraints on Pricing: Experimental Evidence on Price Discrimination and Customer Antagonism," CESifo Working Paper Series 6214, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. repec:eee:jetheo:v:175:y:2018:i:c:p:652-688 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. repec:eee:respol:v:47:y:2018:i:2:p:343-362 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Roland Strausz, 2017. "A Theory of Crowdfunding: A Mechanism Design Approach with Demand Uncertainty and Moral Hazard," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(6), pages 1430-1476, June.
    16. Chao, Yong & Nahata, Babu, 2015. "The degree of distortions under second-degree price discrimination," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 208-213.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D42 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Monopoly
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L12 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Monopoly; Monopolization Strategies

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