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Competition and Price Variation When Consumers Are Loss Averse


  • Botond Kőszegi
  • Paul Heidhues


We modify the Salop (1979) model of price competition with differentiated products by assuming that consumers are loss averse relative to a reference point given by their recent expectations about the purchase. Consumers' sensitivity to losses in money increases the price responsiveness of demand—and hence the intensity of competition—at higher relative to lower market prices, reducing or eliminating price variation both within and between products. When firms face common stochastic costs, in any symmetric equilibrium the markup is strictly decreasing in cost. Even when firms face different cost distributions, we identify conditions under which a focal-price equilibrium (where firms always charge the same "focal" price) exists, and conditions under which any equilibrium is focal. (JEL D11 , D43, D81, L13)

Suggested Citation

  • Botond Kőszegi & Paul Heidhues, 2008. "Competition and Price Variation When Consumers Are Loss Averse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1245-1268, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:98:y:2008:i:4:p:1245-68 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.4.1245

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Menahem E. Yaari, 1965. "Uncertain Lifetime, Life Insurance, and the Theory of the Consumer," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(2), pages 137-150.
    2. Jawwad Noor, 2007. "Hyperbolic Discounting and the Standard Model," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2007-028, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    3. Karni, Edi & Schmeidler, David, 1991. "Atemporal dynamic consistency and expected utility theory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 401-408, August.
    4. Gary S. Becker & Casey B. Mulligan, 1997. "The Endogenous Determination of Time Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 729-758.
    5. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    6. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. "Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
    7. George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 1992. "Anomalies in Intertemporal Choice: Evidence and an Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 573-597.
    8. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680, June.
    9. Daniel Ellsberg, 1961. "Risk, Ambiguity, and the Savage Axioms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 643-669.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets


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