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Price Dispersion In U.S. Manufacturing: Implications For The Aggregation Of Products And Firms

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  • Thomas A Abbott III

Abstract

This paper addresses the question of whether products in the U.S. Manufacturing sector sell at a single (common) price, or whether prices vary across producers. Price dispersion is interesting for at least two reasons. First, if output prices vary across producers, standard methods of using industry price deflators lead to errors in measuring real output at the industry, firm, and establishment level which may bias estimates of the production function and productivity growth. Second, price dispersion suggests product heterogeneity which, if consumers do not have identical preferences, could lead to market segmentation and price in excess of marginal cost, thus making the current (competitive) characterization of the Manufacturing sector inappropriate and invalidating many empirical studies. In the course of examining these issues, the paper develops a robust measure of price dispersion as well as new quantitative methods for testing whether observed price differences are the result of differences in product quality. Our results indicate that price dispersion is widespread throughout manufacturing and that for at least one industry, Hydraulic Cement, it is not the result of differences in product quality.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas A Abbott III, 1992. "Price Dispersion In U.S. Manufacturing: Implications For The Aggregation Of Products And Firms," Working Papers 92-3, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:92-3
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    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/1992/CES-WP-92-03.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Perloff, Jeffrey M & Salop, Steven C, 1986. "Firm-Specific Information, Product Differentiation, and Industry Equilibrium," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(0), pages 184-202, Suppl. No.
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    4. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
    5. John W. Pratt & David A. Wise & Richard Zeckhauser, 1979. "Price Differences in almost Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 189-211.
    6. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
    7. Dahlby, Bev & West, Douglas S, 1986. "Price Dispersion in an Automobile Insurance Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(2), pages 418-438, April.
    8. Lichtenberg, Frank R & Griliches, Zvi, 1989. "Errors of Measurement in Output Deflators," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 7(1), pages 1-9, January.
    9. Carlton, Dennis W, 1979. "Contracts, Price Rigidity, and Market Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 1034-1062, October.
    10. Chambers,Robert G., 1988. "Applied Production Analysis," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521314275, April.
    11. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-969, July.
    12. Isard, Peter, 1977. "How Far Can We Push the "Law of One Price"?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 942-948, December.
    13. George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213-213.
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    Keywords

    CES; economic; research; micro; data; microdata; chief; economist;

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