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The economics of predation: What drives pricing when there is learning-by-doing?


  • Besanko, David
  • Doraszelski, Ulrich
  • Kryukov, Yaroslav


Predatory pricing--a deliberate strategy of pricing aggressively in order to eliminate competitors--is one of the more contentious areas of antitrust policy and its existence and efficacy are widely debated. The purpose of this paper is to formally characterize predatory pricing in a modern industry dynamics framework. We endogenize competitive advantage and industry structure through learning-by-doing. We first show that predation-like behavior arises routinely in our model. Equilibria involving predation-like behavior typically coexist with equilibria involving much less aggressive pricing. To disentangle predatory pricing from mere competition for efficiency on a learning curve we next decompose the equilibrium pricing condition. Our decomposition provides us with a coherent and flexible way to develop alternative characterizations of a firm’s predatory pricing incentives, some of which are motivated by the existing literature while others are novel. We finally measure the impact of the predatory pricing incentives on industry structure, conduct, and performance. We show that forcing a firm to ignore these incentives in setting its price can have a large impact and that this impact stems from eliminating equilibria with predation-like behavior. Along with the predation-like behavior, however, a fair amount of competition for the market is eliminated. Overall, the distinction between predatory pricing and pricing aggressively to pursue efficiency is closely related to the distinction between the advantage-building and advantage-denying motives that our decomposition of the equilibrium pricing condition isolates and measures.

Suggested Citation

  • Besanko, David & Doraszelski, Ulrich & Kryukov, Yaroslav, 2011. "The economics of predation: What drives pricing when there is learning-by-doing?," CEPR Discussion Papers 8708, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8708

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. R. E. Caves & M. E. Porter, 1977. "From Entry Barriers to Mobility Barriers: Conjectural Decisions and Contrived Deterrence to New Competition," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 91(2), pages 241-261.
    2. Dudley, Leonard, 1972. "Learning and Productivity Change in Metal Products," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 662-669, September.
    3. Edlin, Aaron S. & Farrell, Joseph, 2002. "The American Airlines Case: A Chance to Clarify Predation Policy," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt0wx7c4zf, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    4. Aguirregabiria, Victor, 2012. "A method for implementing counterfactual experiments in models with multiple equilibria," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 114(2), pages 190-194.
    5. Ordover, Janusz A. & Saloner, Garth, 1989. "Predation, monopolization, and antitrust," Handbook of Industrial Organization,in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 9, pages 537-596 Elsevier.
    6. Ronald S. Jarmin, 1994. "Learning by Doing and Competition in the Early Rayon Industry," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(3), pages 441-454, Autumn.
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    More about this item


    competition policy; industry dynamics; predatory pricing;

    JEL classification:

    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L44 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Antitrust Policy and Public Enterprise, Nonprofit Institutions, and Professional Organizations

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