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Multi-market contact and competition: evidence from the Depression-era portland cement industry

  • Chicu, Mark
  • Ziebarth, Nicolas L.
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    Theoretical work has suggested that contact between firms in different markets can facilitate tacit collusion. Empirical work on this link has been limited. We address the paucity of empirical evidence with a novel plant-level dataset for the cement industry during the Great Depression. We find that multi-market contact fosters tacit collusion and higher prices based on a new measure of contact that accounts for capacity utilization. A one standard deviation increase in our measure of contact increases prices by around 4.3%. We then examine the effect of the National Industrial Recovery Act's “Codes of Fair Conduct,” introduced in 1933 to stem deflation through cooperative behavior within industries. We find that the effects of the codes were most strongly felt in markets with the highest level of multi-market contact. This suggests that multi-market contact can be a useful ‘tool’ for firms to support collusive outcomes, tacit or otherwise.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167718713000507
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Journal of Industrial Organization.

    Volume (Year): 31 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 5 ()
    Pages: 603-611

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:31:y:2013:i:5:p:603-611
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505551

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    1. Alexander, Barbara, 1994. "The Impact of the National Industrial Recovery Act on Cartel Formation and Maintenance Costs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(2), pages 245-54, May.
    2. Nicolas L. Ziebarth, 2013. "Identifying the Effects of Bank Failures from a Natural Experiment in Mississippi during the Great Depression," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 81-101, January.
    3. Stephen Ryan, 2006. "The Costs of Environmental Regulation in a Concentrated Industry," 2006 Meeting Papers 9, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Meghan R. Busse, 2000. "Multimarket Contact and Price Coordination in the Cellular Telephone Industry," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(3), pages 287-320, 06.
    5. Wallis, John Joseph, 1989. "Employment in the Great Depression: New data and hypotheses," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 45-72, January.
    6. B. Douglas Bernheim & Michael D. Whinston, 1990. "Multimarket Contact and Collusive Behavior," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 1-26, Spring.
    7. Gary Richardson & William Troost, 2009. "Monetary Intervention Mitigated Banking Panics during the Great Depression: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from a Federal Reserve District Border, 1929-1933," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(6), pages 1031-1073, December.
    8. Taylor, Jason E, 2002. "The Output Effects of Government Sponsored Cartels during the New Deal," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 1-10, March.
    9. Haelim M. Park & Gary Richardson, 2010. "Retail Trade by Federal Reserve District, 1919 to 1939: A Statistical History," NBER Working Papers 16617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Jason E. Taylor, 2007. "Cartel Code Attributes and Cartel Performance: An Industry-Level Analysis of the National Industrial Recovery Act," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50, pages 597-624.
    11. Evans, William N & Kessides, Ioannis N, 1994. "Living by the "Golden Rule": Multimarket Contact in the U.S. Airline Industry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 341-66, May.
    12. Jans, Ivette & Rosenbaum, David I., 1997. "Multimarket contact and pricing: Evidence from the U.S. cement industry," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 391-412, May.
    13. Fernandez, Nerea & Marin, Pedro L, 1998. "Market Power and Multimarket Contact: Some Evidence from the Spanish Hotel Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(3), pages 301-15, September.
    14. Matthew B. Krepps, 1997. "Another Look At The Impact Of The National Industrial Recovery Act On Cartel Formation And Maintenance Costs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(1), pages 151-154, February.
    15. Alexander, Barbara J., 1997. "Failed Cooperation in Heterogeneous Industries Under the National Recovery Administration," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(02), pages 322-344, June.
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