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Output Price and Markup Dispersion in Micro Data: The Roles of Producer Heterogeneity and Noise


  • Mark J. Roberts
  • Dylan Supina


This paper provides empirical evidence on the extent of producer heterogeneity in the output market by analyzing output price and price-marginal cost markups at the plant level for thirteen homogenous manufactured goods. It relies on micro data from the U.S. Census of Manufactures over the 1963-1987 period. The amount of price heterogeneity varies substantially across products. Over time, plant transition patterns indicate more persistence in the pricing of individual plants than would be generated by purely random movements. High-price and low-price plants remain in the same part of the price distribution with high frequency, suggesting that underlying time-invariant structural factors contribute to the price dispersion. For all but two products, large producers have lower output prices. Marginal cost and the markups are estimated for each plant. The markup remains unchanged or increases with plant size for all but four of the products and declining marginal costs play an important role in generating this pattern. The lower production costs for large producers are, at least partially, passed on to purchasers as lower output prices. Plants with the highest and lowest markups tend to remain so over time, although overall the persistence in markups is less than for output price, suggesting a larger role for idiosyncratic shocks in generating markup variation.

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  • Mark J. Roberts & Dylan Supina, 1997. "Output Price and Markup Dispersion in Micro Data: The Roles of Producer Heterogeneity and Noise," NBER Working Papers 6075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6075
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    Cited by:

    1. Lucia Foster & John C. Haltiwanger & C. J. Krizan, 2001. "Aggregate Productivity Growth: Lessons from Microeconomic Evidence," NBER Chapters,in: New Developments in Productivity Analysis, pages 303-372 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Priit Vahter, "undated". "Does FDI spur innovation, productivity and knowledge sourcing by incumbent firms? Evidence from manufacturing industry in Estonia," Discussion Papers 10/09, University of Nottingham, GEP.
    3. Stephen Martin & Paola Valbonesi, 2006. "The State Aid Game," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0024, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    4. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan & Patrick Scholten, 2006. "Information, Search, and Price Dispersion," Working Papers 2006-11, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
    5. Vaona, Andrea & Snower, Dennis, 2008. "Increasing returns to scale and the long-run Phillips curve," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(1), pages 83-86, July.
    6. Márcio I. Nakane & Sérgio Mikio Koyama, 2003. "Search Costs and the Dispersion of Loan Interest Rates in Brazil," Anais do XXXI Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 31th Brazilian Economics Meeting] d28, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    7. Grossmann, Volker, 2003. "Managerial Job Assignment and Imperfect Competition in Asymmetric Equilibrium," IZA Discussion Papers 738, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Chad Syverson, 2004. "Market Structure and Productivity: A Concrete Example," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1181-1222, December.
    9. Nicoletta Batini & Brian Jackson & Stephen Nickell, 2002. "The Pricing Behaviour of UK Firms," Discussion Papers 09, Monetary Policy Committee Unit, Bank of England.
    10. Pablo Filippi F. & Patricio Hevia G. & César Vásquez C., 2015. "Análisis de Microdatos de las Tasas de Interés Comerciales por Sector Económico," Notas de Investigación Journal Economía Chilena (The Chilean Economy), Central Bank of Chile, vol. 18(3), pages 104-129, December.
    11. Rumen Dobrinsky & Gabor Korosi & Nikolay Markov & Laszlo Halpern, 2004. "Firms’ Price Markups and Returns to Scale in Imperfect Markets - Bulgaria and Hungary," IEHAS Discussion Papers 0412, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
    12. Enrico Moretti, 2004. "Workers' Education, Spillovers, and Productivity: Evidence from Plant-Level Production Functions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 656-690, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General


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