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Inflation and Market Structure, 1967-1973

In: Explorations in Economic Research, Volume 2, number 2

  • Phillip Cagan

A variety of theories have been offered to explain why prices generally respond so little to declines in demand, and do so now less than formerly. Most of these center around a dependence of prices on costs, or the anticipated trend of costs, and a greater disregard for short-run changes in demand. The more appealing hypothesis is the simple one that price setters tend to adjust slowly to changes in market conditions; they transmit but do not originate inflation. To find that prices in the less competitive markets respond more slowly to changes in market conditions - first lagging, then catching up - would support the theory that firms try to avoid frequent changes in prices but vary in their ability to do so. Are lags in price adjustment related to market structure? Previous empirical studies of the relationship are inconclusive on this point. Earlier literature, largely theoretical, has suggested that concentrated industries tend to raise prices more rapidly, thereby exerting a permanent upward push on the price level. Empirical studies have usually reported the opposite or no consistent relation, however. On the lag-and-catching-up theory, the concentrated industries should exhibit greater increases in the period of waning inflation after 1969. This study examines the data for such a pattern and finds striking evidence of it.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Nber, 1975. "Explorations in Economic Research, Volume 2, number 2," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number moor75-2, December.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 7409.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7409
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