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Consumer Heterogeneity and Markups over the Business Cycle: Evidence from the Airline Industry

  • Marco Cornia
  • Kristopher S. Gerardi
  • Adam Hale Shapiro

    (Bureau of Economic Analysis)

We analyze price dispersion in the airline industry in order to determine the e®ects of the business cycle on markup variations. We ¯nd that the cycle can a®ect the degree to which airlines can price discriminate between di®erent consumer types, ultimately a®ecting the degree of price dispersion. Performing a ¯xed-e®ects panel analysis on 17 years of data covering two business cycles, we ¯nd that price dispersion is highly procyclical. Estimates show that a rise in the output gap of one percentage point increases the interquartile range by 1.6 percent. These results suggest that markups move procyclically in the airline industry, such that during booms in the cycle, the ¯rm can signi¯cantly raise the markup charged to those with high willingness to pay. Our analysis suggests that this impact on the ¯rm's ability to price discriminate imposes extra pro¯t risk to the ¯rm over and above cost variations.

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Paper provided by Bureau of Economic Analysis in its series BEA Working Papers with number 0056.

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Date of creation: Nov 2010
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Handle: RePEc:bea:wpaper:0056
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  1. Severin Borenstein & Nancy L. Rose, 1991. "Competition and Price Dispersion in the U.S. Airline Industry," NBER Working Papers 3785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ian Domowitz & R. Glenn Hubbard & Bruce C. Petersen, 1986. "Business Cycles and the Relationship Between Concentration and Price-Cost Margins," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 1-17, Spring.
  3. Edmond, Chris & Veldkamp, Laura, 2009. "Income dispersion and counter-cyclical markups," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 791-804, September.
  4. Eden, Benjamin, 1990. "Marginal Cost Pricing When Spot Markets Are Complete," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1293-1306, December.
  5. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Adam Hale Shapiro, 2009. "Does Competition Reduce Price Dispersion? New Evidence from the Airline Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(1), pages 1-37, 02.
  6. Dana, James D, Jr, 2001. "Monopoly Price Dispersion under Demand Uncertainty," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 42(3), pages 649-70, August.
  7. Steven L. Puller & Anirban Sengupta & Steven N. Wiggins, 2009. "Testing Theories of Scarcity Pricing in the Airline Industry," NBER Working Papers 15555, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Judith A. Chevalier & David S. Scharfstein, 1994. "Capital Market Imperfections and Countercyclical Markups: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4614, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Adam Hale Shapiro & Ana Aizcorbe, 2010. "Implications of Consumer Heterogeneity on Price Measures for Technology Goods," BEA Working Papers 0062, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
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