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Knife-Edge or Plateau: When Do Market Models Tip?


  • Fudenberg, Drew
  • Ellison, Glenn


This paper studies whether agents must agglomerate at a single location in a class of models of two-sided interaction. In these models there is an increasing returns effect that favors agglomeration, but also a crowding or market-impact effect that makes agents prefer to be in a market with fewer agents of their own type. We show that such models do not tip in the way the term is commonly used. Instead, they have a broad plateau of equilibria with two active markets, and tipping occurs only when one market is below a critical size threshold. Our assumptions are fairly weak, and are satisfied in Krugman's model of labor market pooling, a heterogeneous-agent version of Pagano's asset market model, and Ellison, Fudenberg, and Möbius' model of competing auctions.

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  • Fudenberg, Drew & Ellison, Glenn, 2003. "Knife-Edge or Plateau: When Do Market Models Tip?," Scholarly Articles 3160493, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3160493

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Henderson, J V, 1974. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(4), pages 640-656, September.
    2. Guy Dumais & Glenn Ellison & Edward L. Glaeser, 2002. "Geographic Concentration As A Dynamic Process," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 193-204, May.
    3. Glenn Ellison & Drew Fudenberg & Markus Möbius, 2004. "Competing Auctions," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(1), pages 30-66, March.
    4. Gehrig, Thomas, 1998. "Competing markets," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 277-310, February.
    5. Krugman, Paul, 1991. "Increasing Returns and Economic Geography," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 483-499, June.
    6. Albert S. Kyle, 1989. "Informed Speculation with Imperfect Competition," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(3), pages 317-355.
    7. Ellison, Glenn & Glaeser, Edward L, 1997. "Geographic Concentration in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: A Dartboard Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 889-927, October.
    8. Marco Pagano, 1989. "Trading Volume and Asset Liquidity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(2), pages 255-274.
    9. Dimitri Vayanos, 1999. "Strategic Trading and Welfare in a Dynamic Market," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(2), pages 219-254.
    10. Klemperer, Paul D & Meyer, Margaret A, 1989. "Supply Function Equilibria in Oligopoly under Uncertainty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(6), pages 1243-1277, November.
    11. Fujita, Masahisa, 1988. "A monopolistic competition model of spatial agglomeration : Differentiated product approach," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 87-124, February.
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    JEL classification:

    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics
    • G1 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets


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