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One Markup to Rule Them All: Taxation by Liquor Pricing Regulation

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  • Eugenio J. Miravete
  • Katja Seim
  • Jeff Thurk

Abstract

Government often chooses simple rules to regulate industry even when firms and consumers are heterogeneous. We evaluate the implications of this practice in the context of alcohol pricing where the regulator uses a single markup rule that does not vary across products. We estimate an equilibrium model of wholesale pricing and retail demand for horizontally differentiated spirits that allows for heterogeneity in consumer preferences based on observable demographics. We show that the single markup increases market power among upstream firms, particularly small firms whose portfolios are better positioned to take advantage of the policy. For consumers, the single markup acts as a progressive tax by overpricing products favored by the rich. It also decreases aggregate consumer welfare though 16.7% of consumers are better off under the policy. These consumers tend to be older, less wealthy or educated, and minorities. Simple policies therefore generate significant cross-subsidies and may be an effective tool for government to garner favor of key constituencies.

Suggested Citation

  • Eugenio J. Miravete & Katja Seim & Jeff Thurk, 2017. "One Markup to Rule Them All: Taxation by Liquor Pricing Regulation," NBER Working Papers 24124, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24124
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    Cited by:

    1. Eugenio J. Miravete & Katja Seim & Jeff Thurk, 2018. "Market Power and the Laffer Curve," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 86(5), pages 1651-1687, September.
    2. Rachel Griffith & Martin O'Connell & Kate Smith, 2020. "Price floors and externality correction," IFS Working Papers W20/37, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    3. Griffith, Rachel & O’Connell, Martin & Smith, Kate, 2019. "Tax design in the alcohol market," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 172(C), pages 20-35.
    4. Victor Aguirregabiria & Francis Guiton, 2022. "Decentralized Decision-Making in Retail Chains: Evidence from Inventory Management," Working Papers tecipa-722, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    5. Matthew Grennan & Robert J. Town, 2020. "Regulating Innovation with Uncertain Quality: Information, Risk, and Access in Medical Devices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(1), pages 120-161, January.
    6. Martin O'Connell & Kate Smith, 2021. "Optimal sin taxation and market power," IFS Working Papers W21/30, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    7. Brett Hollenbeck & Kosuke Uetake, 2021. "Taxation and market power in the legal marijuana industry," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 52(3), pages 559-595, September.
    8. Gehrsitz, Markus & Saffer, Henry & Grossman, Michael, 2021. "The effect of changes in alcohol tax differentials on alcohol consumption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 204(C).
    9. Hindriks, Jean & Serse, Valerio, 2019. "Heterogeneity in the tax pass-through to spirit retail prices: Evidence from Belgium," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 142-160.
    10. Simon Cowan, 2018. "Regulating monopoly price discrimination," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 54(1), pages 1-13, August.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D42 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Monopoly
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • L43 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Legal Monopolies and Regulation or Deregulation
    • L66 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Food; Beverages; Cosmetics; Tobacco

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