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Price Controls and Consumer Surplus

  • Bulow, Jeremy

    (Stanford University)

  • Klemperer, Paul

    (Oxford University)

Price controls lead to misallocation of goods and encourage rent-seeking. The misallocation effect alone is enough to ensure that consumer surplus is always reduced by a price control in an otherwise-competitive market with convex demand if supply is more elastic than demand; or when demand is log-convex (e.g., constant-elasticity) even if supply is inelastic. The same results apply both when rationed goods are allocated by costless lottery among interested consumers, and when costly rent-seeking and/or partial de-control mitigates the allocative inefficiency. The results are best understood using the fact that in any market, consumer surplus equals the area between the demand curve and the industry marginal revenue curve.

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File URL: http://gsbapps.stanford.edu/researchpapers/library/RP2086.pdf
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Paper provided by Stanford University, Graduate School of Business in its series Research Papers with number 2086.

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Date of creation: Oct 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:2086
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  1. Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2007. "Does the Minimum Wage Cause Inefficient Rationing?," Working Paper Series rwp07-018, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  2. An, Mark Yuying, 1995. "Logconcavity versus Logconvexity: A Complete Characterization," Working Papers 95-03, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  3. Lucas W. Davis & Lutz Kilian, 2008. "The Allocative Cost of Price Ceilings in the U.S. Residential Market for Natural Gas," NBER Working Papers 14030, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Mark Bagnoli & Ted Bergstrom, 2005. "Log-concave probability and its applications," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 445-469, 08.
  5. Edward L. Glaeser & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2003. "The Misallocation of Housing Under Rent Control," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1027-1046, September.
  6. A. Michael Spence, 1975. "Monopoly, Quality, and Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 6(2), pages 417-429, Autumn.
  7. Filip Palda, 2001. "Some Deadweight Losses from the Minimum Wage: The Cases of Full and Partial Compliance," Labor and Demography 0112001, EconWPA.
  8. R. Quentin Grafton & Michael B. Ward, 2008. "Prices versus Rationing: Marshallian Surplus and Mandatory Water Restrictions," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 84(s1), pages S57-S65, 09.
  9. W. Kip Viscusi & Joseph E. Harrington & John M. Vernon, 2005. "Economics of Regulation and Antitrust, 4th Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 4, volume 1, number 026222075x, June.
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