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How does income inequality affect market outcomes in vertically differentiated markets?


  • Yurko, Anna V.


The distribution of consumer incomes is a key factor in determining the structure of a vertically differentiated industry when consumer's willingness to pay depends on her income. This paper computes the Shaked and Sutton (1982) model for a lognormal distribution of consumer incomes to investigate the effect of inequality on firms' entry, product quality, and pricing decisions. The main findings are that greater inequality in consumer incomes leads to the entry of more firms and results in more intense quality competition among the entrants. More intense quality competition raises the average quality of products in the market as firms compete for the shrinking share of higher-income consumers. With zero costs of quality improvements and an upper bound on the top quality or when costs of quality are fixed and rise sufficiently fast, greater heterogeneity of consumer incomes also reduces firms' incentives to differentiate their products. Competition between more similar products tends to reduce their prices. However, when income inequality is very high, the top quality producer chooses to serve only the rich segment of the market and charges a higher price. The conclusion is that income inequality has important implications for the degree of product differentiation, price level, industry concentration, and consumer welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Yurko, Anna V., 2011. "How does income inequality affect market outcomes in vertically differentiated markets?," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 493-503, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:29:y:2011:i:4:p:493-503

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. De Fraja, Giovanni, 1996. "Product line competition in vertically differentiated markets," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 389-414, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Osharin, Alexander & Thisse, Jacques-François & Ushchev, Philip & Verbus, Valery, 2014. "Monopolistic competition and income dispersion," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 348-352.
    2. Corrado Benassi & Marcella Scrimitore, 2017. "Income Distribution in Network Markets," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 251-271, September.
    3. C. Benassi & A. Chirco & C. Colombo, 2015. "Beyond the Uniform Distribution: Equilibrium Prices and Qualities in a Vertically Differentiated Duopoly," Working Papers wp1044, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    4. Lisandra Flach & Eckhard Janeba, 2017. "Income inequality and export prices across countries," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 50(1), pages 162-200, February.
    5. Laine, Liisa T. & Ma, Ching-to Albert, 2017. "Quality and competition between public and private firms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 336-353.
    6. Ting Liu & Ching-To Albert Ma & Henry Y. Mak, 2015. "Incentives for Motivated Experts in a Partnership," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series wp2015-006, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    7. Osharin Alexander & Verbus Valery, 2015. "Heterogeneous consumers and market structure in a monopolistically competitive setting," EERC Working Paper Series 15/03e, EERC Research Network, Russia and CIS.
    8. Garella, Paolo G. & Lambertini, Luca, 2014. "Bidimensional vertical differentiation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 1-10.
    9. F. Barigozzi & C. A. Ma, 2016. "Product Differentiation with Multiple Qualities," Working Papers wp1075, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    10. Namrata Gulati & Prabal Roy Chowdhury, 2010. "Income inequality, neighbourhood effects and product quality," Indian Statistical Institute, Planning Unit, New Delhi Discussion Papers 10-06, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India.

    More about this item


    Vertical differentiation Income inequality Computational economics;

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms


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