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Do Increasing Markups Matter? Lessons from Empirical Industrial Organization

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  • Steven Berry
  • Martin Gaynor
  • Fiona Scott Morton

Abstract

This article considers the recent literature on firm markups in light of both new and classic work in the field of industrial organization. We detail the shortcomings of papers that rely on discredited approaches from the "structure-conduct-performance" literature. In contrast, papers based on production function estimation have made useful progress in measuring broad trends in markups. However, industries are so heterogeneous that careful industry-specific studies are also required, and sorely needed. Examples of such studies illustrate differing explanations for rising markups, including endogenous increases in fixed costs associated with lower marginal costs. In some industries there is evidence of price increases driven by mergers. To fully understand markups, we must eventually recover the key economic primitives of demand, marginal cost, and fixed and sunk costs. We end by discussing the various aspects of antitrust enforcement that may be of increasing importance regardless of the cause of increased markups.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Berry & Martin Gaynor & Fiona Scott Morton, 2019. "Do Increasing Markups Matter? Lessons from Empirical Industrial Organization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 33(3), pages 44-68, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:33:y:2019:i:3:p:44-68
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.33.3.44
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets

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