IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Differential Pricing When Costs Differ: A Welfare Analysis

This paper analyzes the welfare effects of monopoly differential pricing in the important but largely neglected case where marginal costs of service differ across consumer groups. Compared to uniform pricing, cost-based differential pricing generally raises total welfare. Although total output may fall or even its allocation across consumer groups may worsen, under a minor demand curvature condition at least one of these changes must be beneficial and dominate if the other is not. Aggregate consumer welfare also rises (under a mildly tighter condition). The source of consumer gains is not cost savings from output reallocation, which flow to the firm. Rather, to induce output reallocation the firm must vary its prices, thereby creating price dispersion without an upward bias in the average price. This improves consumer welfare even in cases where output falls. We contrast these results with those in the extensive literature on third-degree price discrimination and, furthermore, provide sufficient conditions for beneficial differential pricing when both demand elasticities and costs differ.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: Full text
Download Restriction: None

Paper provided by Georgetown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number gueconwpa~13-13-01.

in new window

Length: 30
Date of creation: 21 Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:geo:guwopa:gueconwpa~13-13-01
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036

Phone: 202-687-6074
Fax: 202-687-6102
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: Roger Lagunoff Professor of Economics Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
Web: Email:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Hausman, J.A. & Mackie-Mason, J.K., 1988. "Price Discrimination And Patent Policy," Papers 88-13, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  2. Schmalensee, Richard, 1981. "Output and Welfare Implications of Monopolistic Third-Degree Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(1), pages 242-47, March.
  3. Simon GB Cowan & Simon Cowan, 2009. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination and Consumer Surplus," Economics Series Working Papers 462, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  4. Armstrong, Mark & Porter, Robert, 2007. "Preface to the Handbook of Industrial Organization, Volume 3," Handbook of Industrial Organization, Elsevier.
  5. Simon Cowan, 2007. "The welfare effects of third-degree price discrimination with nonlinear demand functions," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(2), pages 419-428, 06.
  6. Shih, Jun-ji & Mai, Chao-cheng & Liu, Jung-chao, 1988. "A General Analysis of the Output Effect under Third-Degree Price Discrimination," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(389), pages 149-58, March.
  7. Varian, Hal R, 1985. "Price Discrimination and Social Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 870-75, September.
  8. Iñaki Aguirre & Simon Cowan & John Vickers, 2010. "Monopoly Price Discrimination and Demand Curvature," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1601-15, September.
  9. Adachi, Takanori & Ebina, Takeshi, 2014. "Double marginalization and cost pass-through: Weyl–Fabinger and Cowan meet Spengler and Bresnahan–Reiss," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 170-175.
  10. E. Glen Weyl & Michal Fabinger, 2013. "Pass-Through as an Economic Tool: Principles of Incidence under Imperfect Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(3), pages 528 - 583.
  11. Paolo Bertoletti, 2009. "On the output criterion for price discrimination," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 29(4), pages 2951-2956.
  12. Schwartz, Marius, 1990. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination and Output: Generalizing a Welfare Result," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1259-62, December.
  13. Jonathan E. Nuechterlein & Philip J. Weiser, 2007. "Digital Crossroads: American Telecommunications Policy in the Internet Age," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026264066x, December.
  14. Glenn Ellison, 2005. "A Model of Add-On Pricing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 585-637.
  15. 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 1254-58, December.
  16. Valletti, Tommaso M., 2006. "Differential pricing, parallel trade, and the incentive to invest," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 314-324, September.
  17. Malueg, David A, 1993. "Bounding the Welfare Effects of Third-Degree Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 1011-21, September.
  18. Layson, Stephen K, 1998. "Third-Degree Price Discrimination with Interdependent Demands," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(4), pages 511-24, December.
  19. Mark Armstrong & John Vickers, 1991. "Welfare Effects of Price Discrimination by a Regulated Monopolist," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(4), pages 571-581, Winter.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:geo:guwopa:gueconwpa~13-13-01. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Marcia Suss)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.