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The Limits of Price Discrimination

  • Dirk Bergemann
  • Benjamin A. Brooks
  • Stephen Morris

We analyze the welfare consequences of a monopolist having additional information about consumers' tastes, beyond the prior distribution; the additional information can be used to charge different prices to different segments of the market, i.e., carry out "third degree price discrimination." We show that the segmentation and pricing induced by the additional information can achieve every combination of consumer and producer surplus such that: (i) consumer surplus is non-negative, (ii) producer surplus is at least as high as profits under the uniform monopoly price, and (iii) total surplus does not exceed the efficient gains from trade. As well as characterizing the welfare impact of price discrimination, we examine the limits of how prices and quantities can change under price discrimination. We also examine the limits of price discrimination in richer environments with quantity discrimination and limited ability to segment the market.

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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 786969000000000776.

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Date of creation: 19 Sep 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:786969000000000776
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  1. Nahata, Babu & Ostaszewski, Krzysztof & Sahoo, P K, 1990. "Direction of Price Changes in Third-Degree Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1254-58, December.
  2. Curtis R. Taylor, 2004. "Consumer Privacy and the Market for Customer Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(4), pages 631-650, Winter.
  3. Simon Cowan, 2012. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination and Consumer Surplus," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(2), pages 333-345, 06.
  4. Robert J. Aumann, 1995. "Repeated Games with Incomplete Information," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011476, June.
  5. Eric Maskin & John Riley, 1984. "Monopoly with Incomplete Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 171-196, Summer.
  6. Varian, Hal R, 1985. "Price Discrimination and Social Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 870-75, September.
  7. Cowan, Simon & Vickers, John & Aguirre Pérez, Iñaki, 2009. "Monopoly Price Discrimination and Demand Curvature," IKERLANAK 2009-39, Universidad del País Vasco - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico I.
  8. Schmalensee, Richard, 1981. "Output and Welfare Implications of Monopolistic Third-Degree Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(1), pages 242-47, March.
  9. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680.
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