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Price Dispersion: an Evolutionary Approach

  • Ed Hopkins
  • Robert M. Seymour

In many markets it is possible to find rival sellers charging different prices for the same good. Earlier research has explained this phenomenon by demon-strating the existence of dispersed price equilibria when consumers must make use of costly search to discover prices. Taking as a starting point the model of Burdett and Judd (Econometric, 1983), this paper, extending evolutionary techniques to a game with nonlinear payoffs and a continuum of strategies, reexamines the question of price dispersion from an evolutionary, disequilibrium perspective. That is, firms and consumers adjust behaviour adaptively in response to current market conditions. We find that dispersed price equilibria are unstable when consumers use a fixed sample size search rule but may be stable when a reservation price rule is used.

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Paper provided by ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution in its series ELSE working papers with number 043.

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Handle: RePEc:els:esrcls:043
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  1. Kandori, M. & Mailath, G.J., 1991. "Learning, Mutation, And Long Run Equilibria In Games," Papers 71, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - John M. Olin Program.
  2. Bester, Helmut, 1988. "Bargaining, Search Costs and Equilibrium Price Distributions," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(2), pages 201-14, April.
  3. Morgan, Peter & Manning, Richard, 1985. "Optimal Search," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(4), pages 923-44, July.
  4. Ed Hopkins, 1995. "Learning, Matching and Aggregation," Game Theory and Information 9512001, EconWPA.
  5. Salop, Steven & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Bargains and Ripoffs: A Model of Monopolistically Competitive Price Dispersion," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 493-510, October.
  6. Benabou, Roland, 1988. "Search market equilibrium bilateral heterogeneity and repeat purchases," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 8806, CEPREMAP.
  7. Nachbar, J H, 1990. ""Evolutionary" Selection Dynamics in Games: Convergence and Limit Properties," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 59-89.
  8. Wilde, Louis L & Schwartz, Alan, 1979. "Equilibrium Comparison Shopping," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(3), pages 543-53, July.
  9. Rothschild, Michael, 1974. "Searching for the Lowest Price When the Distribution of Prices Is Unknown," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 689-711, July/Aug..
  10. Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-59, September.
  11. Wilde, Louis L, 1992. "Comparison Shopping as a Simultaneous Move Game," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(412), pages 562-69, May.
  12. Fershtman, C. & Fishman, A., 1989. "Price Cycles And Booms Dynamic Search Equilibrium," Papers 8922, Tilburg - Center for Economic Research.
  13. Rothschild, Michael, 1973. "Models of Market Organization with Imperfect Information: A Survey," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(6), pages 1283-1308, Nov.-Dec..
  14. Gastwirth, Joseph L, 1976. "On Probabilistic Models of Consumer Search for Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(1), pages 38-50, February.
  15. Fudenberg Drew & Kreps David M., 1993. "Learning Mixed Equilibria," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 320-367, July.
  16. George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213.
  17. Harrison, Glenn W & Morgan, Peter, 1990. "Search Intensity in Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 478-86, June.
  18. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
  19. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-69, July.
  20. Carlson, John A & McAfee, R Preston, 1983. "Discrete Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 480-93, June.
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