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Estimating demand elasticities in a differentiated product industry: The personal computer market

  • Stavins, Joanna

Supply and demand functions are typically estimated using uniform prices and quantities across products, but where products are heterogeneous, it is important to consider quality differences explicitly. This paper demonstrates a new approach to doing this by employing hedonic coefficients to estimate price elasticities for differentiated products in the market for personal computers. Differences among products are modeled as distances in a linear quality space derived from a multi-dimensional attribute space. Heterogeneous quality allows for the estimation of varying demand elasticities among models, using models' relative positions as measures of market power. Instead of restricting market competition to the two nearest models, as is typically done in the differentiated-product literature, cross-elasticities of substitution are allowed to decline continuously with distance between models in quality space. Using data on prices, technical attributes, and shipments of personal computers sold in the United States from 1977 to 1988, two-stage least squares estimates of demand elasticities are obtained. The estimated elasticities vary across models and over time, and are consistent with observed changes in market structure. Entrant firms, as well as new models, are found to face more elastic demand. The estimated elasticities are used to calculate price-cost markups and industry profit-revenue ratios. Both measures decline significantly, indicating a decrease in industry profitability over time, as the market became more competitive.

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File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0148-6195(97)00010-6
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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economics and Business.

Volume (Year): 49 (1997)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 347-367

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jebusi:v:49:y:1997:i:4:p:347-367
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jeconbus

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  1. Schmalensee, Richard, 1982. "Product Differentiation Advantages of Pioneering Brands," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 349-65, June.
  2. Ernst R. Berndt & Zvi Griliches, 1990. "Price Indexes for Microcomputers: An Exploratory Study," NBER Working Papers 3378, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
  4. Bresnahan, Timothy F., 1981. "Departures from marginal-cost pricing in the American automobile industry : Estimates for 1977-1978," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 201-227, November.
  5. Robert C. Feenstra & James A. Levinsohn, 1995. "Estimating Markups and Market Conduct with Multidimensional Product Attributes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(1), pages 19-52.
  6. Gelfand, Matthew D. & Spiller, Pablo T., 1987. "Entry barriers and multiproduct oligopolies: Do they forebear or spoil?," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 101-113, March.
  7. Bresnahan, Timothy F., 1989. "Empirical studies of industries with market power," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 17, pages 1011-1057 Elsevier.
  8. James Levinsohn, 1988. "Empirics of Taxes on Differentiated Products: The Case of Tariffs in the U.S. Automobile Industry," NBER Chapters, in: Trade Policy Issues and Empirical Analysis, pages 9-44 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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