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When Demand Increases Cause Shakeouts

Listed author(s):
  • Thomas N. Hubbard
  • Michael J. Mazzeo
Registered author(s):

    Standard economic models that guide competition policy imply that demand increases should lead to more, not fewer firms. However, Sutton’s (1991) model illustrates that in some cases, demand increases can catalyze competitive responses that bring about shake-outs. This paper provides empirical evidence of this effect in the 1960s-1980s hotel and motel industry, an industry where quality competition increasingly took the form of whether firms supplied outdoor recreational amenities such as swimming pools. We find that openings of new Interstate Highways are associated with increases in hotel employment, but decreases in the number of firms, in local areas. We further find that while highway construction is associated with increases in hotel employment in both warm and cold places, it only leads to fewer firms in warm places (where outdoor amenities were more valued by consumers). Finally, we find no evidence of this effect in other industries that serve highway travelers, gasoline retailing or restaurants, where quality competition is either less important or quality is supplied more through variable costs. We discuss the implications of these results for competition policy, and how they highlight the importance and challenge of distinguishing between “natural” and “market-power-driven” increases in concentration.

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23639.

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    Date of creation: Jul 2017
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23639
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    1. Michael Spence, 1976. "Product Selection, Fixed Costs, and Monopolistic Competition," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 43(2), pages 217-235.
    2. Paul B. Ellickson, 2007. "Does Sutton apply to supermarkets?," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(1), pages 43-59, March.
    3. Berry, Steven T, 1992. "Estimation of a Model of Entry in the Airline Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 889-917, July.
    4. Guy Michaels, 2008. "The Effect of Trade on the Demand for Skill: Evidence from the Interstate Highway System," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 683-701, November.
    5. Jeffrey R. Campbell & Beverly Lapham, 2004. "Real Exchange Rate Fluctuations and the Dynamics of Retail Trade Industries on the U. S.-Canada Border," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1194-1206, September.
    6. Michael J. Mazzeo, 2002. "Competitive Outcomes in Product-Differentiated Oligopoly," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(4), pages 716-728, November.
    7. Lisa M. George, 2009. "NATIONAL TELEVISION AND THE MARKET FOR LOCAL PRODUCTS: THE CASE OF BEER -super-," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(1), pages 85-111, 03.
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