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The Allocative Cost of Price Ceilings: Lessons to be Learned from the US Residential Market for Natural Gas

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  • Davis, Lucas W
  • Kilian, Lutz

Abstract

Following a Supreme Court decision in 1954, natural gas markets in the U.S. were subject to 35 years of intensive federal regulation. Several studies have measured the deadweight loss from the price ceilings that were imposed during this period. This paper concentrates on an additional component of welfare loss that is rarely discussed. In particular, when there is excess demand for a good such as natural gas for which secondary markets do not exist, an additional welfare loss occurs when the good is not allocated to the buyers who value it the most. We quantify the overall size of this allocative cost, its evolution during the post-war period, and its geographical distribution, and we highlight implications of our analysis for the regulation of other markets. Using a household-level, discrete-continuous model of natural gas demand we estimate that the allocative cost averaged $8.1 billion annually in the U.S. residential market for natural gas during 1950-2000, effectively doubling previous estimates of the total welfare losses from natural gas regulation. We find that these allocative costs were borne disproportionately by households in the Northeast, Midwest, and South Atlantic states. Costs were largest in New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts with 70% of all costs borne by the ten states affected most.

Suggested Citation

  • Davis, Lucas W & Kilian, Lutz, 2007. "The Allocative Cost of Price Ceilings: Lessons to be Learned from the US Residential Market for Natural Gas," CEPR Discussion Papers 6142, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6142
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Luttmer Erzo F.P., 2007. "Does the Minimum Wage Cause Inefficient Rationing?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-42, October.
    2. Edelstein, Paul & Kilian, Lutz, 2007. "Retail Energy Prices and Consumer Expenditures," CEPR Discussion Papers 6255, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    allocative cost; deadweight loss; natural gas; price ceiling; regulation;

    JEL classification:

    • D45 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Rationing; Licensing
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L71 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Mining, Extraction, and Refining: Hydrocarbon Fuels

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