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Low quality as a signal of high quality


  • Clements, Matthew T.


If a product has two dimensions of quality, one observable and one not, a firm can use observable quality as a signal of unobservable quality. The correlation between consumers' valuation of high quality in each dimension is a key determinant of the feasibility of such signaling. A firm may use price alone as a signal, or price and quality together. Both signals tend to be used when the market is very uninformed, whereas price signaling alone tends to be used when the market is moderately informed. If high observable quality is inexpensive to provide, then it cannot signal high unobservable quality, and low observable quality is always an indication that unobservable quality is high.

Suggested Citation

  • Clements, Matthew T., 2011. "Low quality as a signal of high quality," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 5, pages 1-22.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:20115

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Engers, Maxim, 1987. "Signalling with Many Signals," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 663-674, May.
    2. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1986. "Price and Advertising Signals of Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 796-821, August.
    3. Kenneth L. Judd & Michael H. Riordan, 1994. "Price and Quality in a New Product Monopoly," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(4), pages 773-789.
    4. Kyle Bagwell, 1987. "Introductory Price as a Signal of Cost in a Model of Repeat Business," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(3), pages 365-384.
    5. In-Koo Cho & David M. Kreps, 1987. "Signaling Games and Stable Equilibria," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(2), pages 179-221.
    6. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sobel, Joel, 1987. "Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 647-661, May.
    7. Bagwell, Kyle, 1992. "Pricing to Signal Product Line Quality," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 151-174, Spring.
    8. Bagwell, Kyle & Riordan, Michael H, 1991. "High and Declining Prices Signal Product Quality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 224-239, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sadowski, Philipp, 2016. "Overeagerness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PA), pages 114-125.
    2. Anna Boisits & Roland Königsgruber, 2016. "Information acquisition and disclosure by firms in the presence of additional available information," Central European Journal of Operations Research, Springer;Slovak Society for Operations Research;Hungarian Operational Research Society;Czech Society for Operations Research;Österr. Gesellschaft für Operations Research (ÖGOR);Slovenian Society Informatika - Section for Operational Research;Croatian Operational Research Society, vol. 24(1), pages 177-205, March.

    More about this item


    Signaling; quality;

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality


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