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Set-Asides and Subsidies in Auctions

  • Susan Athey
  • Dominic Coey
  • Jonathan Levin

Set-asides and subsidies are used extensively in government procurement and natural resource sales. We analyze these policies in an empirical model of U.S. Forest Service timber auctions. The model fits the data well both within the sample of unrestricted sales where we estimate the model, and when we predict (out of sample) bidder entry and prices for small business set-asides. Our estimates suggest that restricting entry to small businesses substantially reduces efficiency and revenue, although it does increase small business participation. An alternative policy of subsidizing small bidders would increase revenue and small bidder profit, while eliminating almost all of the efficiency loss of set-asides, and only slightly decreasing the profit of larger firms. We explain these findings by connecting to the theory of optimal auction design.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16851.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
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Publication status: published as Susan Athey & Dominic Coey & Jonathan Levin, 2013. "Set-Asides and Subsidies in Auctions," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 1-27, February.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16851
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  1. Lance Brannman & Luke M. Froeb, 2000. "Mergers, Cartels, Set-Asides, and Bidding Preferences in Asymmetric Oral Auctions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(2), pages 283-290, May.
  2. Athey, S., 1997. "Sigle Crossing Properties and the Existence of Pure Strategy Equilibria in Games of Incomplete Information," Working papers 97-11, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Athey,S. & Haile,P.A., 2000. "Identification of standard auction models," Working papers 13, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  4. Tong Li, 2005. "Econometrics of first-price auctions with entry and binding reservation prices," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 126(1), pages 173-200, May.
  5. Susan Athey & Jonathan Levin & Enrique Seira, 2004. "Comparing Open and Sealed Bid Auctions: Theory and Evidence from Timber Auctions," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000524, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. Philip A. Haile, 2001. "Auctions with Resale Markets: An Application to U.S. Forest Service Timber Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 399-427, June.
  7. Emmanuel Guerre & Isabelle Perrigne & Quang Vuong, 2000. "Optimal Nonparametric Estimation of First-Price Auctions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(3), pages 525-574, May.
  8. Philip A. Haile & Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2004. "Nonparametric Tests for Common Values in First-Price Sealed-Bid Auctions," Working Papers 2004.149, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  9. McAfee, R. Preston & McMillan, John, 1989. "Government procurement and international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3-4), pages 291-308, May.
  10. Milgrom,Paul, 2004. "Putting Auction Theory to Work," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521551847, Junio.
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