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The Rise of Niche Consumption

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  • Brent Neiman
  • Joseph S. Vavra

Abstract

Over the last 15 years, the typical household has increasingly concentrated its spending on a few preferred products. However, this is not driven by “superstar” products capturing larger market shares. Instead, households increasingly purchase different products from each other. As a result, aggregate spending concentration has decreased. We develop a model of heterogeneous household demand and use it to conclude that increasing product variety drives these divergent trends. When more products are available, households select products better matched to their tastes. This delivers welfare gains from selection equal to about half a percent per year in the categories covered by our data. Our model features heterogeneous markups because producers of popular products care more about their existing customers while producers of less popular niche products care more about generating new customers. Surprisingly, our model matches the observed trends in household and aggregate concentration without any change in aggregate market power.

Suggested Citation

  • Brent Neiman & Joseph S. Vavra, 2019. "The Rise of Niche Consumption," NBER Working Papers 26134, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26134
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2018. "Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(2), pages 553-609.
    2. Jerry A. Hausman, 1996. "Valuation of New Goods under Perfect and Imperfect Competition," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of New Goods, pages 207-248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2016. "Appendix to "Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States"," Working Papers 201604, World Inequality Lab.
    4. Erik Brynjolfsson & Yu (Jeffrey) Hu & Michael D. Smith, 2003. "Consumer Surplus in the Digital Economy: Estimating the Value of Increased Product Variety at Online Booksellers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(11), pages 1580-1596, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sergey G. Kokovin & Shamil Sharapudinov & Alexander Tarasov & Philip Ushchev, 2020. "A Theory of Monopolistic Competition with Horizontally Heterogeneous Consumers," CESifo Working Paper Series 8082, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation

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