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Measuring the price responsiveness of gasoline demand

  • Richard Blundell


    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and IFS and UCL)

  • Joel Horowitz


    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Northwestern University)

  • Matthias Parey


    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University of Essex)

This paper develops a new method for estimating the demand function for gasoline and the deadweight loss due to an increase in the gasoline tax. The method is also applicable to other goods. The method uses shape restrictions derived from economic theory to improve the precision of a nonparametric estimate of the demand function. Using data from the U.S. National Household Travel Survey, we show that the restrictions are consistent with the data on gasoline demand and remove the anomalous behavior of a standard nonparametric estimator. Our approach provides new insights about the price responsiveness of gasoline demand and the way responses vary across the income distribution. We reject constant elasticity models and find that price responses vary non-monotonically with income. In particular, we find that low- and high-income consumers are less responsive to changes in gasoline prices than are middle-income consumers.

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Paper provided by Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series CeMMAP working papers with number CWP11/09.

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Date of creation: Apr 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:cemmap:11/09
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  1. Richard Schmalensee & Thomas M. Stoker, 1999. "Household Gasoline Demand in the United States," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(3), pages 645-662, May.
  2. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
  3. West, Sarah E., 2004. "Distributional effects of alternative vehicle pollution control policies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 735-757, March.
  4. James M. Poterba, 1991. "Is the Gasoline Tax Regressive?," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 5, pages 145-164 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jonathan E. Hughes & Christopher R. Knittel & Daniel Sperling, 2006. "Evidence of a Shift in the Short-Run Price Elasticity of Gasoline Demand," NBER Working Papers 12530, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Antonio M. Bento & Lawrence H. Goulder & Mark R. Jacobsen & Roger H. von Haefen, 2009. "Distributional and Efficiency Impacts of Increased US Gasoline Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 667-99, June.
  7. Deaton,Angus & Muellbauer,John, 1980. "Economics and Consumer Behavior," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521296762.
  8. Antonio M. Bento & Lawrence H. Goulder & Emeric Henry & Mark R. Jacobsen & Roger H. von Haefen, 2005. "Distributional and Efficiency Impacts of Gasoline Taxes: An Econometrically Based Multi-market Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 282-287, May.
  9. Hausman, Jerry A & Newey, Whitney K, 1995. "Nonparametric Estimation of Exact Consumers Surplus and Deadweight Loss," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1445-76, November.
  10. Dahl, Carol A, 1979. "Consumer Adjustment to a Gasoline Tax," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 61(3), pages 427-32, August.
  11. Adonis Yatchew & Joungyeo Angela No, 2001. "Household Gasoline Demand in Canada," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1697-1709, November.
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