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

  • Chad Syverson

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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12231.

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Date of creation: May 2006
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Publication status: published as Syverson, Chad. “Prices, Spatial Competition, and Heterogeneous Producers: An Empirical Test.” Journal of Industrial Economics 55, 2 (June 2007): 197-222.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12231
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  1. Chad Syverson, 2003. "Product Substitutability and Productivity Dispersion," NBER Working Papers 10049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Anil K. Kashyap, 1991. "Sticky prices: new evidence from retail catalogs," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 91-26, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  3. Dunne, Timothy & Roberts, Mark J & Samuelson, Larry, 1989. "The Growth and Failure of U.S. Manufacturing Plants," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(4), pages 671-98, November.
  4. Karen Clay & Ramayya Krishnan & Eric Wolff, 2001. "Prices and Price Dispersion on the Web: Evidence from the Online Book Industry," NBER Working Papers 8271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Steven C. Salop, 1979. "Monopolistic Competition with Outside Goods," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 141-156, Spring.
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  7. Mark Bils & Peter J. Klenow & Oleksiy Kryvtsov, 2003. "Sticky prices and monetary policy shocks," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-9.
  8. repec:rus:hseeco:122439 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Chad Syverson, 2005. "Reallocation, Firm Turnover, and Efficiency: Selection on Productivity or Profitability?," NBER Working Papers 11555, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Pinelopi K. Goldberg & Frank Verboven, 2001. "Market Integration and Convergence to the Law of One Price: Evidence from the European Car Market," NBER Working Papers 8402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. George S Olley & Ariel Pakes, 1992. "The Dynamics Of Productivity In The Telecommunications Equipment Industry," Working Papers 92-2, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  12. Mark J. Melitz, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," NBER Working Papers 8881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Chad Syverson, 2001. "Market Structure and Productivity: A Concrete Example," Working Papers 01-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  14. C.J. Krizan & John Haltiwanger & Lucia Foster, 2002. "The Link Between Aggregate and Micro Productivity Growth: Evidence from Retail Trade," Working Papers 02-18, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  15. Hopenhayn, Hugo A, 1992. "Entry, Exit, and Firm Dynamics in Long Run Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1127-50, September.
  16. 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.
  17. Marcus Asplund & Volker Nocke, 2003. "Firm Turnover in Imperfectly Competitive Markets," PIER Working Paper Archive 03-010, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  18. Alan T. Sorensen, 2000. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion in Retail Markets for Prescription Drugs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 833-862, August.
  19. Bresnahan, Timothy F & Reiss, Peter C, 1991. "Entry and Competition in Concentrated Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 977-1009, October.
  20. Brown, Jeffrey, 2000. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Working Paper Series rwp00-007, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  21. 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.
  22. Roberts, Mark J. & Supina, Dylan, 1996. "Output price, markups, and producer size," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 909-921, April.
  23. Joe Beaulieu & Joe Mattey, 1999. "The Effects Of General Inflation And Idiosyncratic Cost Shocks On Within-Commodity Price Dispersion: Evidence From Microdata," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(2), pages 205-216, May.
  24. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & C. J. Krizan, 2006. "Market Selection, Reallocation, and Restructuring in the U.S. Retail Trade Sector in the 1990s," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 748-758, November.
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