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Synthesizing Econometric Evidence: The Case of Demand Elasticity Estimates


  • Philip DeCicca
  • Donald S. Kenkel


Econometric estimates of the responsiveness of health-related consumer demand to higher prices are often key ingredients for policy analysis. Drawing on several examples, especially that of cigarette demand, we review the potential advantages and challenges of synthesizing econometric evidence on the price-responsiveness of consumer demand. We argue that the overarching goal of research synthesis in this context is to provide policy-relevant evidence for broad brush conclusions and propose three main criteria to select among research synthesis methods. We also contribute a new empirical exercise that puts the results of previous research synthesis to the test. In particular, we ask whether the “best” consensus estimates of the price-elasticity of smoking help predict trends in smoking from 1995 to 2010. The demographics of the smoking population in our baseline year predict a downward trend in smoking even if cigarette prices remained constant. Average cigarette prices, however, more than doubled in real terms by 2010. We find that the observed declines in smoking over this period are considerably smaller than smoking demographics combined with prior consensus elasticity estimates would predict. Our results suggest that these consensus estimates may have systematically overestimated the price responsiveness of cigarette demand.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip DeCicca & Donald S. Kenkel, 2015. "Synthesizing Econometric Evidence: The Case of Demand Elasticity Estimates," NBER Working Papers 20906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20906
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. van Bergeijk, P.A.G. & Lazzaroni, S., 2013. "Macroeconomics of natural disasters," ISS Working Papers - General Series 50075, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    2. Donald Kenkel & Alan Mathios & Hua Wang, 2015. "Menthol Cigarette Advertising and Cigarette Demand," NBER Working Papers 21790, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Michael F. Pesko & John A. Tauras & Jidong Huang & Frank J. Chaloupka, IV, 2016. "The Influence of Geography and Measurement in Estimating Cigarette Price Responsiveness," NBER Working Papers 22296, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Hansen, Benjamin & Sabia, Joseph J. & Rees, Daniel I., 2015. "Cigarette Taxes and Youth Smoking: Updated Estimates Using YRBS Data," IZA Discussion Papers 9144, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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