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Market Power and the Laffer Curve

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  • Eugenio J. Miravete
  • Katja Seim
  • Jeff Thurk

Abstract

We study commodity taxation and characterize the Laffer curve, a trade‐off between tax rates and revenue, in noncompetitive markets. Pricing in these markets leads to incomplete tax pass‐through and agents re optimize their purchase and pricing decisions in response to any tax change. We use detailed data from Pennsylvania, a state that monopolizes retail sales of alcoholic beverages, to estimate a model of demand for horizontally differentiated products that ties consumers' demographic characteristics to heterogeneous preferences for spirits. We find that under the state's current tax policy, spirits are overpriced. Distillers respond to decreases in the tax rate by increasing wholesale prices, which limits the state's revenue gain to only 13% of the incremental tax revenue predicted under the common assumption of perfect competition. The strategic response of noncompetitive firms to changes in taxation therefore flattens the Laffer curve significantly.

Suggested Citation

  • Eugenio J. Miravete & Katja Seim & Jeff Thurk, 2018. "Market Power and the Laffer Curve," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 86(5), pages 1651-1687, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:86:y:2018:i:5:p:1651-1687
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.3982/ECTA12307
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fullerton, Don, 1982. "On the possibility of an inverse relationship between tax rates and government revenues," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 3-22, October.
    2. Brian McManus, 2007. "Nonlinear pricing in an oligopoly market: the case of specialty coffee," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(2), pages 512-532, June.
    3. Laura Grigolon & Frank Verboven, 2014. "Nested Logit or Random Coefficients Logit? A Comparison of Alternative Discrete Choice Models of Product Differentiation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(5), pages 916-935, December.
    4. Rachel Griffith & Martin O'Connell & Kate Smith, 2017. "Design of optimal corrective taxes in the alcohol market," IFS Working Papers W17/02, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    5. Novales, Alfonso & Ruiz, Jesus, 2002. "Dynamic Laffer curves," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 181-206, December.
    6. Eugenio J. Miravete & Katja Seim & Jeff Thurk, 2017. "One Markup to Rule Them All: Taxation by Liquor Pricing Regulation," NBER Working Papers 24124, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Katja Seim & Joel Waldfogel, 2013. "Public Monopoly and Economic Efficiency: Evidence from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's Entry Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(2), pages 831-862, April.
    8. Meng, Yang & Brennan, Alan & Purshouse, Robin & Hill-McManus, Daniel & Angus, Colin & Holmes, John & Meier, Petra Sylvia, 2014. "Estimation of own and cross price elasticities of alcohol demand in the UK—A pseudo-panel approach using the Living Costs and Food Survey 2001–2009," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 96-103.
    9. Sofia Berto Villas-Boas, 2007. "Vertical Relationships between Manufacturers and Retailers: Inference with Limited Data," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(2), pages 625-652.
    10. Kenneth L. Judd & Ben Skrainka, 2011. "High performance quadrature rules: how numerical integration affects a popular model of product differentiation," CeMMAP working papers CWP03/11, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    11. A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), 1985. "Handbook of Public Economics," Handbook of Public Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1.
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    Cited by:

    1. Eugenio J. Miravete & Katja Seim & Jeff Thurk, 2017. "One Markup to Rule Them All: Taxation by Liquor Pricing Regulation," NBER Working Papers 24124, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:eee:pubeco:v:172:y:2019:i:c:p:20-35 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Griffith, Rachel & O’Connell, Martin & Smith, Kate, 2019. "Tax design in the alcohol market," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 172(C), pages 20-35.
    4. Hollenbeck, Brett & Uetake, Kosuke, 2018. "Taxation and Market Power in the Legal Marijuana Industry," MPRA Paper 90085, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L12 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Monopoly; Monopolization Strategies
    • L21 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Business Objectives of the Firm
    • L32 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Public Enterprises; Public-Private Enterprises

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