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A Theory of Price Adjustment under Loss Aversion

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  • Ahrens, Steffen

    (Technische Universität Berlin)

  • Pirschel, Inske

    (Kiel Institute for the World Economy)

  • Snower, Dennis J.

    (Hertie School of Governance)

Abstract

We present a new partial equilibrium theory of price adjustment, based on consumer loss aversion. In line with prospect theory, the consumers' perceived utility losses from price increases are weighted more heavily than the perceived utility gains from price decreases of equal magnitude. Price changes are evaluated relative to an endogenous reference price, which depends on the consumers' rational price expectations from the recent past. By implication, demand responses are more elastic for price increases than for price decreases and thus firms face a downward-sloping demand curve that is kinked at the consumers' reference price. Firms adjust their prices flexibly in response to variations in this demand curve, in the context of an otherwise standard dynamic neoclassical model of monopolistic competition. The resulting theory of price adjustment is starkly at variance with past theories. We find that – in line with the empirical evidence – prices are more sluggish upwards than downwards in response to temporary demand shocks, while they are more sluggish downwards than upwards in response to permanent demand shocks.

Suggested Citation

  • Ahrens, Steffen & Pirschel, Inske & Snower, Dennis J., 2014. "A Theory of Price Adjustment under Loss Aversion," IZA Discussion Papers 8138, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8138
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    5. Camille Cornand & Frank Heinemann, 2018. "Experiments on macroeconomics: methods and applications," Working Papers halshs-01809937, HAL.
    6. David P. Myatt, 2019. "A Theory of Stable Price Dispersion," Economics Series Working Papers 873, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    7. Camille Cornand & Frank Heinemann, 2018. "Experiments on macroeconomics: methods and applications," Working Papers 1810, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    8. Tramontana, Fabio, 2021. "When a boundedly rational monopolist meets consumers with reference dependent preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 184(C), pages 30-45.
    9. Willem H. Boshoff & Johannes Paha, 2021. "List Price Collusion," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 393-409, September.
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    11. Wang, Zhihong & Li, Yangyang & Gu, Fu & Guo, Jianfeng & Wu, Xiaojun, 2020. "Two-sided matching and strategic selection on freight resource sharing platforms," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 559(C).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    price sluggishness; loss aversion; state-dependent pricing;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E50 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - General

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