Geographical Dispersion of Consumer Search Behavior
This paper investigates whether consumer search behavior differs across zip codes within the U.S.. As an application, daily gasoline price data covering virtually all gas stations within the U.S. are employed to estimate the distribution of search costs in each zip code. The results show that there are significant differences across zip codes regarding the expected number of searches achieved before consumers purchase gasoline. In order to have a systematic explanation, such differences are further connected to geographic, demographic and economic conditions of the zip codes in a secondary analysis. The corresponding results imply several strategies for gas stations in order to maximize profits/markups; suggestions follow for policy makers and regulators to reduce redistributive effects of information barriers across locations.
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