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An Empirical Model of Search with Vertically Differentiated Products

  • Matthijs R Wildenbeest

    (Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, Indiana University Kelley School of Business)

This paper presents a non-sequential search model that allows for vertical product differentiation. In the unique symmetric equilibrium firms with different characteristics draw utilities from a common utility distribution, resulting in asymmetric price distributions. The model therefore provides a theoretical rationale for explaining price dispersion as a result of quality differences and search frictions together. More specifically, the model can explain the frequent and asymmetric price changes reported in several empirical papers, but also why some firms have persistently higher prices than others. Using the equilibrium conditions derived from the model, we show how to estimate search costs by maximum likelihood using only prices. The method is applied to a data set of prices for grocery items from supermarkets in the UK. Estimates reveal that most of the observed price variation can be explained by supermarket heterogeneity and that the estimated amount of search is low in this market. We show that ignoring vertical product differentiation results in an overestimation of search costs. Moreover, estimated search costs using a basket of organic items are on average higher than that of a similar non-organic basket. We also simulate how changes in search costs will affect behavior of stores and consumers.

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File URL: http://kelley.iu.edu/riharbau/RePEc/iuk/wpaper/bepp2009-01-wildenbeest.pdf
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Paper provided by Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy in its series Working Papers with number 2009-01.

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Date of creation: Apr 2009
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Handle: RePEc:iuk:wpaper:2009-01
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  1. Howard Smith, 2004. "Supermarket Choice and Supermarket Competition in Market�Equilibrium," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(1), pages 235-263, 01.
  2. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan & Patrick Scholten, 2004. "Price Dispersion In The Small And In The Large: Evidence From An Internet Price Comparison Site," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 463-496, December.
  3. Saul Lach, 2002. "Existence And Persistence Of Price Dispersion: An Empirical Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 433-444, August.
  4. Patrick Bajari & Stephanie Houghton & Steve Tadelis, 2006. "Bidding for Incomplete Contracts: An Empirical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 12051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2006. "Using price distributions to estimate search costs," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(2), pages 257-275, 06.
  6. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:2:p:257-275 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Philip A. Haile & Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2003. "Nonparametric Tests for Common Values in First-Price Sealed-Bid Auctions," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1445, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  8. Matt Shum & Phil Haile & Han Hong, 2003. "Nonparametric Tests for Common Values in First-Price Auctions," Economics Working Paper Archive 501, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  9. Morgan, Peter & Manning, Richard, 1985. "Optimal Search," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(4), pages 923-44, July.
  10. Stahl, Dale O, II, 1989. "Oligopolistic Pricing with Sequential Consumer Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 700-712, September.
  11. Babur de los Santos, 2008. "Consumer Search on the Internet," Working Papers 2008-06, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  12. Wolinsky, Asher, 1986. "True Monopolistic Competition as a Result of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(3), pages 493-511, August.
  13. Howard Smith, 2004. "Supermarket Choice and Supermarket Competition in Market Equilibrium," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(1), pages 235-263.
  14. Moraga-González, José Luis & Wildenbeest, Matthijs R., 2008. "Maximum likelihood estimation of search costs," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(5), pages 820-848, July.
  15. Armstrong, Mark, 2008. "Interactions between competition and consumer policy," MPRA Paper 7258, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  16. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:2:p:416-430 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Yingyao Hu & Matthew Shum, 2007. "Estimating First-Price Auctions with an Unknown Number of Bidders: A Misclassification Approach," Economics Working Paper Archive 541, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  18. Ali Hortaç Su & Chad Syverson, 2004. "Product Differentiation, Search Costs, And Competition in the Mutual Fund Industry: A Case Study of S&P 500 Index Funds," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 403-456, May.
  19. Matthew Lewis, 2008. "PRICE DISPERSION AND COMPETITION WITH DIFFERENTIATED SELLERS -super-* ," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(3), pages 654-678, 09.
  20. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-69, July.
  21. Howard Smith, 2006. "Store characteristics in retail oligopoly," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(2), pages 416-430, 06.
  22. Daniel Hosken & David Reiffen, 2004. "Patterns of Retail Price Variation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(1), pages 128-146, Spring.
  23. Maarten C. W. Janssen & José Luis Moraga-Gonz�lez, 2004. "Strategic Pricing, Consumer Search and the Number of Firms," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(4), pages 1089-1118.
  24. Martin Pesendorfer, 2002. "Retail Sales: A Study of Pricing Behavior in Supermarkets," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75(1), pages 33-66, January.
  25. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan & Patrick Scholten, 2006. "Information, Search, and Price Dispersion," Working Papers 2006-11, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
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