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Nonparametric Tests for Common Values at First-Price Sealed-Bid Auctions

  • Philip A. Haile
  • Han Hong
  • Matthew Shum

We develop tests for common values at first-price sealed-bid auctions. Our tests are nonparametric, require observation only of the bids submitted at each auction, and are based on the fact that the winner's curse' arises only in common values auctions. The tests build on recently developed methods for using observed bids to estimate each bidder's conditional expectation of the value of winning the auction. Equilibrium behavior implies that in a private values auction these expectations are invariant to the number of opponents each bidder faces, while with common values they are decreasing in the number of opponents. This distinction forms the basis of our tests. We consider both exogenous and endogenous variation in the number of bidders. Monte Carlo experiments show that our tests can perform well in samples of moderate sizes. We apply our tests to two different types of U.S. Forest Service timber auctions. For unit-price ( scaled') sales often argued to fit a private values model, our tests consistently fail to find evidence of common values. For lumpsum' sales, where a priori arguments for common values appear stronger, our tests yield mixed evidence against the private values hypothesis.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10105.

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Date of creation: Nov 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10105
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  1. Paarsch, Harry J., 1992. "Deciding between the common and private value paradigms in empirical models of auctions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1-2), pages 191-215.
  2. Wolak, Frank A, 1991. "The Local Nature of Hypothesis Tests Involving Inequality Constraints in Nonlinear Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(4), pages 981-95, July.
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