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Bidding for Incomplete Contracts: An Empirical Analysis

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  • Patrick Bajari
  • Stephanie Houghton
  • Steve Tadelis

Abstract

Procurement contracts are often incomplete because the initial plans and specifications are changed and refined after the contract is awarded to the lowest bidder. This results in a final cost to the buyer that differs from the low bid, and may also involve significant adaptation and renegotiation costs. We propose a stylized model of bidding for incomplete contracts and apply it to data from highway paving contracts. Reduced form regressions suggest that bidders respond strategically to contractual incompleteness and that adaptation costs, broadly defined, are an important determinant of the observed bids. We then estimate the costs of adaptation and bidder markups using a structural auction model. The estimates suggest that adaptation costs on average account for about ten percent of the winning bid. The distortions from private information and local market power, which are the focus on much of the literature on optimal procurement mechanisms, are much smaller by comparison.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Bajari & Stephanie Houghton & Steve Tadelis, 2006. "Bidding for Incomplete Contracts: An Empirical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 12051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12051 Note: IO
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. de Brux, Julie, 2010. "The Dark and Bright Sides of Renegotiation: An Application to Transport Concession Contracts," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 77-85, June.
    2. Calogero Guccio & Giacomo Pignataro & Ilde Rizzo, 2014. "Evaluating the efficiency of public procurement contracts for cultural heritage conservation works in Italy," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 38(1), pages 43-70, February.
    3. repec:taf:applec:v:49:y:2017:i:57:p:5740-5752 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Maria Bigoni & Giancarlo Spagnolo & Paola Valbonesi, 2010. "Sticks and Carrots in Procurement," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0105, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    5. Eduardo Engel & Ronald Fischer & Alexander Galetovic, 2006. "Privatizing Highways in the United States," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 29(1), pages 27-53, September.
    6. repec:eee:juipol:v:48:y:2017:i:c:p:141-146 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. David Martimort & Flavio Menezes & Myrna Wooders & DANIEL DANAU & ANNALISA VINELLA, 2015. "Public-Private Contracting under Limited Commitment," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 17(1), pages 78-110, February.
    8. Ryan Cumings, 2017. "Shape-Constrained Density Estimation Via Optimal Transport," Papers 1710.09069, arXiv.org.
    9. Gian Luigi Albano & Federico Dini & Roberto Zampino, 2008. "Bidding for Complex Projects: Evidence From the Acquisitions of IT Services," Working Papers 2008.86, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    10. Guccio, Calogero & Pignataro, Giacomo & Rizzo, Ilde, 2014. "Do local governments do it better? Analysis of time performance in the execution of public works," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 237-252.
    11. Katzman, Brett & Reif, Julian & Schwartz, Jesse A., 2010. "The relation between variance and information rent in auctions," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 127-130, March.
    12. Hakan Yilmazkuday, 2017. "Geographical dispersion of consumer search behaviour," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(57), pages 5740-5752, December.
    13. Marques, Rui Cunha & Berg, Sanford V, 2010. "Revisiting the strengths and limitations of regulatory contracts in infrastructure industries," MPRA Paper 32890, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, 2011. "An empirical model of search with vertically differentiated products," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 42(4), pages 729-757, December.
    15. Baldi, Simona & Bottasso, Anna & Conti, Maurizio & Piccardo, Chiara, 2016. "To bid or not to bid: That is the question: Public procurement, project complexity and corruption," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 89-106.
    16. Takahashi, Hidenori, 2015. "Strategic design under uncertain evaluations : structural analysis of design-build auctions," Working Papers 15-08, University of Mannheim, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure

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