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The Informativeness of Prices: Search With Learning and Cost Uncertainty

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  • Roland Benabou
  • Robert Gertner

Abstract

Aggregate cost uncertainty, arising from real shocks or unanticipated inflation, reduces the informativeness of prices by scrambling relative and aggregate variations. But when agents can acquire additional information, such increased noise may in fact lead them to become better informed, and price competition will intensify. We examine these issues in a model of search with learning, where consumers search optimally from an unknown price distribution while firms price optimally given consumers' search rules. We show that the decisive factor in whether inflation variability increases or reduces the incentive to search, and thereby market efficiency, is the size of informational costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland Benabou & Robert Gertner, 1991. "The Informativeness of Prices: Search With Learning and Cost Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 3833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3833
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rothschild, Michael, 1974. "Searching for the Lowest Price When the Distribution of Prices Is Unknown," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 689-711, July/Aug..
    2. Hercowitz, Zvi, 1981. "Money and the Dispersion of Relative Prices," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 328-356, April.
    3. Fudenberg, Drew & Tirole, Jean, 1991. "Perfect Bayesian equilibrium and sequential equilibrium," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 236-260, April.
    4. A. R. Pagan & A. D. Hall & P. K. Trivedi, 1983. "Assessing the Variability of Inflation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 585-596.
    5. Barro, Robert J., 1976. "Rational expectations and the role of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 1-32, January.
    6. Stanley Fischer, 1981. "Relative Shocks, Relative Price Variability, and Inflation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 12(2), pages 381-442.
    7. Roland Benabou, 1988. "Search, Price Setting and Inflation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 55(3), pages 353-376.
    8. Milgrom, Paul R & Weber, Robert J, 1982. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1089-1122, September.
    9. Rosenfield, Donald B. & Shapiro, Roy D., 1981. "Optimal adaptive price search," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 1-20, August.
    10. Parks, Richard W, 1978. "Inflation and Relative Price Variability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(1), pages 79-95, February.
    11. Cukierman, Alex, 1983. "Relative price variability and inflation: A survey and further results," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 103-157, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mariano Tommasi, 1993. "The Consequences of Price Instability on Search Markets," UCLA Economics Working Papers 700, UCLA Department of Economics.
    2. Ball, Laurence & Romer, David, 2003. " Inflation and the Informativeness of Prices," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 35(2), pages 177-196, April.
    3. Mariano Tommasi, 1992. "The Welfare Effects of Inflation, The Consequences of Price Instability on Search Markets," UCLA Economics Working Papers 655, UCLA Department of Economics.

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