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An Equilibrium Theory of Rationing


  • Richard J. Gilbert
  • Paul Klemperer


Committing to prices that result in rationing may be more profitable than setting market-clearing prices if customers must make sunk investments to enter the market. Rationing is ex post inefficient, but it gives more surplus to lower-value customers who are the marginal consumers the monopolists want to tempt to make investments. Similarly, a monopsonist may procure some requirements from high-cost "second sources" rather than purchase only from the lowest-cost suppliers. The model contributes to the theory of auctions with endogenous entry, and it may also help explain "efficiency wages," "second prizes," and "fair" behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard J. Gilbert & Paul Klemperer, 2000. "An Equilibrium Theory of Rationing," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 31(1), pages 1-21, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:rje:randje:v:31:y:2000:i:spring:p:1-21

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Julio J. Rotemberg & Lawrence H. Summers, 1990. "Inflexible Prices and Procyclical Productivity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(4), pages 851-874.
    2. Margaret E. Slade, 1991. "Strategic Pricing with Customer Rationing: The Case of Primary Metals," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 24(1), pages 70-100, February.
    3. Png, I P L, 1991. "Most-Favored-Customer Protection versus Price Discrimination over Time," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 1010-1028, October.
    4. Stole, Lars A., 1994. "Information expropriation and moral hazard in optimal second-source auctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 463-484, July.
    5. Martin L. Weitzman, 1977. "Is the Price System or Rationing More Effective in Getting a Commodity to Those Who Need It Most?," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 8(2), pages 517-524, Autumn.
    6. Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1981. "Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 393-410, June.
    7. Levin, Dan & Smith, James L, 1994. "Equilibrium in Auctions with Entry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 585-599, June.
    8. Klemperer, Paul D & Meyer, Margaret A, 1989. "Supply Function Equilibria in Oligopoly under Uncertainty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(6), pages 1243-1277, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ken Binmore & Paul Klemperer, 2002. "The Biggest Auction Ever: the Sale of the British 3G Telecom Licences," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(478), pages 74-96, March.
    2. repec:bin:bpeajo:v:29:y:1998:i:1998-3:p:323-394 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Felix Oberholzer-Gee, 2003. "A Market for Time: Fairness and Efficiency in Waiting Lines," CREMA Working Paper Series 2003-04, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    4. Klemperer, Paul, 2000. "Why every Economist should Learn some Auction Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 2572, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Kwang-Sook Huh, 2008. "Strategic Price Decision Inducing Consumer Rationing: Theory and Evidence," Korean Economic Review, Korean Economic Association, vol. 24, pages 233-257.
    6. Courty, Pascal, 2011. "Unpriced quality," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 111(1), pages 13-15, April.
    7. Boone, Jan, 2002. "'Be Nice, Unless it Pays to Fight': A New Theory of Price Determination with Implications for Competition Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 3342, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Jehiel, Philippe & Lamy, Laurent, 2016. "On the benefits of set-asides," CEPR Discussion Papers 11564, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Boone, Jan, 2003. "Optimal Competition: A Benchmark for Competition Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 3766, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Steven M. Shugan, 2002. "Editorial: Marketing Science, Models, Monopoly Models, and Why We Need Them," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 21(3), pages 223-228.
    11. repec:oup:jcomle:v:3:y:2007:i:1:p:1-47. is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Peck, James, 1996. "Competition in Transactions Mechanisms: The Emergence of Price Competition," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 109-123, September.
    13. Michael J. Dueker & Daniel L. Thornton, 1997. "Do bank loan rates exhibit a countercyclical mark-up?," Working Papers 1997-004, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    14. Paul Klemperer, 2007. "Bidding Markets," Journal of Competition Law and Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-47.
    15. Hyytinen, Ari & Väänänen, Lotta, 2004. "Could Mr. and Mrs. Capital Market Imperfection Please Step Forward? An Empirical Analysis of Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard in Capital Markets," Discussion Papers 887, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
    16. Dold, Malte & Khadjavi, Menusch, 2017. "Jumping the queue: An experiment on procedural preferences," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 127-137.
    17. Liu, Xuyuan & Lu, Jingfeng, 2017. "Optimal prize-rationing strategy in all-pay contests with incomplete information," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 57-90.
    18. Henk Folmer & Auke Leen, 2013. "Why do successful restaurants not raise their prices?," Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 81-90, July.
    19. Hao Li, 2001. "A Theory of Conservatism," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 617-636, June.
    20. Greve,T. & Pollitt, M. G., 2012. "Designing electiricty transmission auctions: an introduction to the relevant literature," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1245, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    21. Michael J. Dueker, 2000. "Are prime rate changes asymmetric?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 33-40.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D45 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Rationing; Licensing
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation


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