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The Limits of Price Discrimination

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Abstract

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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  • Dirk Bergemann & Benjamin Brooks & Stephen Morris, 2013. "The Limits of Price Discrimination," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1896R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Jul 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1896r
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    1. Dirk Bergemann & Benjamin Brooks & Stephen Morris, 2015. "The Limits of Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 921-957, March.
    2. Iñaki Aguirre & Simon Cowan & John Vickers, 2010. "Monopoly Price Discrimination and Demand Curvature," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1601-1615, September.
    3. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2013. "Robust Predictions in Games With Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1251-1308, July.
    4. 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.
    5. Robert J. Aumann, 1995. "Repeated Games with Incomplete Information," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011476, February.
    6. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2013. "Robust Predictions in Games With Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1251-1308, July.
    7. Emir Kamenica & Matthew Gentzkow, 2011. "Bayesian Persuasion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2590-2615, October.
    8. Varian, Hal R, 1985. "Price Discrimination and Social Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 870-875, September.
    9. John Riley & Richard Zeckhauser, 1983. "Optimal Selling Strategies: When to Haggle, When to Hold Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(2), pages 267-289.
    10. Dirk Bergemann & Benjamin Brooks & Stephen Morris, 2013. "Extremal Information Structures in the First Price Auction," Working Papers 055-2013, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Econometric Research Program..
    11. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2013. "Robust Predictions in Games With Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1251-1308, July.
    12. Eric Maskin & John Riley, 1984. "Monopoly with Incomplete Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 171-196, Summer.
    13. Schmalensee, Richard, 1981. "Output and Welfare Implications of Monopolistic Third-Degree Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(1), pages 242-247, March.
    14. Simon Cowan, 2016. "Welfare-increasing third-degree price discrimination," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 47(2), pages 326-340, May.
    15. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680.
    16. Dirk Bergemann & Stephen Morris, 2013. "Robust Predictions in Games With Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1251-1308, July.
    17. 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 1254-1258, December.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    First degree price discrimination; Second degree price discrimination; Third degree price discrimination; Private information; Privacy; Bayes correlated equilibrium;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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