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Prices, Spatial Competition, and Heterogenous Producers: An Empirical Test

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  • Chad Syverson

Abstract

In markets where spatial competition is important, many models predict that average prices are lower in denser markets (i.e., those with more producers per unit area). Homogeneous-producer models attribute this effect solely to lower optimal markups. However, when producers instead differ in their production costs, a second mechanism also acts to lower equilibrium prices: competition-driven selection on costs. Consumers%u2019 greater substitution possibilities in denser markets make it more difficult for high-cost firms to profitably operate, truncating the equilibrium cost (and price) distributions from above. This selection process can be empirically distinguished from the homogenous-producer case because it implies that not only do average prices fall as density rises, but that upper-bound prices and price dispersion should also decline as well. I find empirical support for this process using a rich set of price data from U.S. readymixed concrete plants. Features of the industry offer an arguably exogenous source of producer density variation with which to identify these effects. I also show that the findings do not simply result from lower factor prices in dense markets, but rather because dense-market producers have low costs because they are more efficient.

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  • Chad Syverson, 2006. "Prices, Spatial Competition, and Heterogenous Producers: An Empirical Test," NBER Working Papers 12231, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12231
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    Cited by:

    1. Masayuki Morikawa, 2011. "Economies of Density and Productivity in Service Industries: An Analysis of Personal Service Industries Based on Establishment-Level Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 179-192, February.
    2. Okubo, Toshihiro & Picard, Pierre M. & Thisse, Jacques-François, 2010. "The spatial selection of heterogeneous firms," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 230-237, November.
    3. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Chad Syverson, 2008. "Reallocation, Firm Turnover, and Efficiency: Selection on Productivity or Profitability?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 394-425, March.
    4. Ali Hortaçsu & Chad Syverson, 2007. "Cementing Relationships: Vertical Integration, Foreclosure, Productivity, and Prices," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 250-301.
    5. Anders Akerman & Rikard Forslid, 2009. "Firm Heterogeneity and Country Size Dependent Market Entry Costs," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd09-056, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    6. Alex Coad, 2009. "On the distribution of product price and quality," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 19(4), pages 589-604, August.
    7. Fraser Summerfield, 2016. "Matching Skill and Tasks: Cyclical Fluctuations in the Overqualification of New Hires," Working Paper series 16-08, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
    8. Diem Nguyen & Vicki McCracken & Ken Casavant & Eric Jessup, 2011. "Geographic location, ownership and profitability of Washington log trucking companies," Regional Science Policy & Practice, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(2), pages 115-125, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L0 - Industrial Organization - - General
    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • L6 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing

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