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The Relation Between Price and Marginal Cost in U.S. Industry


  • Robert E. Hall


An examination of data on labor input and the quantity of output reveals that most U.S. industries have marginal costs far below their prices. The corilusion rests on the empirical finding that cyclical variations in labor input are small compared to variations in output. In booms, firms produce substantially more output and sell it for a price that exceeds the costs of the added inputs. The paper documents the disparity between price and marginal cost,where marginal cost is estimated from variations in cost from one year to the next. It considers a wide variety of explanations of the flndings that are consistent with competition, but none is found to be plausible.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert E. Hall, 1986. "The Relation Between Price and Marginal Cost in U.S. Industry," NBER Working Papers 1785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1785
    Note: EFG PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wilson, Charles A, 1979. "Anticipated Shocks and Exchange Rate Dynamics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(3), pages 639-647, June.
    2. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    3. Willem H. Buiter & Marcus Miller, 1991. "Real Exchange Rate Overshooting and the Output Cost of Bringing Down Inflation," NBER Chapters,in: International Volatility and Economic Growth: The First Ten Years of The International Seminar on Macroeconomics, pages 239-277 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Willem H. Buiter & Marcus Miller, 1983. "Changing the Rules: Economic Consequences of the Thatcher Regime," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 14(2), pages 305-380.
    5. Blanchard, Olivier J, 1985. "Debt, Deficits, and Finite Horizons," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(2), pages 223-247, April.
    6. Dornbusch, Rudiger, 1976. "Expectations and Exchange Rate Dynamics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1161-1176, December.
    7. R. Dornbusch, 1975. "Exchange Rate Dynamics," Working papers 167, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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