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Transferable Licenses vs. Nontransferable Licenses: What is the Difference?


  • Kala Krishna
  • Ling Hui Tan


This paper questions the presumption that transferable quota licenses are worth more and result in higher welfare. We show that the price of a transferable license will tend to be higher than that of its nontransferable counterpart only if the underlying quota is quite restrictive. Despite this, if consumer surplus and license revenue have equal weight in the welfare function, transferability is preferable to nontransferability. If their weights are unequal, then the comparison could go either way. We also show that increased uncertainty, in the form of a mean preserving spread, does not affect the license price under nontransferability and could raise or lower the level of the license price with transferability depending on the restrictiveness of the quota.

Suggested Citation

  • Kala Krishna & Ling Hui Tan, 1996. "Transferable Licenses vs. Nontransferable Licenses: What is the Difference?," NBER Working Papers 5484, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5484
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Riccardo Faini & Jaime Melo & Wendy Takacs, 1995. "A Primer on the MFA Maze," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(1), pages 113-135, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Spencer, Barbara J., 1997. "Quota licenses for imported capital equipment: Could bureaucrats ever do better than the market?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1-2), pages 1-27, August.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General
    • D45 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Rationing; Licensing


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