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Estimating search with learning

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Abstract

In this paper we estimate a structural model of search for differentiated products, using a unique dataset of individual search histories for hotels online. We propose and implement an identification strategy that allows to separately estimate consumer's beliefs, search costs and preferences. Learning plays an essential role in this strategy: it creates variation of posterior beliefs across consumers that's orthogonal to variation in search costs. We obtain two kinds of results. First, we estimate consumer's demand from the search model and compare it to results from the static model. We find that ignoring the endogeneity of choice sets leads to biased estimates: in particular, the aggregate price elasticity is over-estimated by about 80%. Second, we attempt to evaluate an empirical performance of a model of rational search. The mean search cost is estimated to be around 40 dollars, and median is 30 dollars; however, there is also a significant variation of search costs among population. A test between models of search from known (Stigler 1967) and from unknown (Rothschild 1974) distribution favors the second one: we find a statistically significant amount of Bayesian learning, even though it doesn't seem to affect demand estimates in an economically meaningful way.

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  • Sergei Koulayev, 2008. "Estimating search with learning," Working Papers 08-29, NET Institute, revised Oct 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0829
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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..
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    4. Wolinsky, Asher, 1987. "Matching, search, and bargaining," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 311-333, August.
    5. Eric J. Johnson & Wendy W. Moe & Peter S. Fader & Steven Bellman & Gerald L. Lohse, 2004. "On the Depth and Dynamics of Online Search Behavior," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(3), pages 299-308, March.
    6. Jeremy T. Fox, 2007. "Semiparametric estimation of multinomial discrete-choice models using a subset of choices," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(4), pages 1002-1019, December.
    7. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
    8. Gregory S. Crawford & Matthew Shum, 2005. "Uncertainty and Learning in Pharmaceutical Demand," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(4), pages 1137-1173, July.
    9. Morgan, Peter B, 1985. "Distributions of the Duration and Value of Job Search with Learning," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(5), pages 1199-1232, September.
    10. Steven Berry & James Levinsohn & Ariel Pakes, 1993. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium: Part I and II," NBER Working Papers 4264, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Sharma, Sunil, 1996. "Optimal search with learning," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-3), pages 333-359.
    12. Rosenfield, Donald B. & Shapiro, Roy D., 1981. "Optimal adaptive price search," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 1-20, August.
    13. Christopher T. Conlon & Julie Holland Mortimer, 2013. "Demand Estimation under Incomplete Product Availability," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 1-30, November.
    14. Simon P. Anderson & Regis Renault, 1999. "Pricing, Product Diversity, and Search Costs: A Bertrand-Chamberlin-Diamond Model," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(4), pages 719-735, Winter.
    15. Sailer, Katharina, 2006. "Searching and Learning in Internet Auctions: The eBay Example," Munich Dissertations in Economics 4873, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    16. Alan T. Sorensen, 2001. "An Empirical Model of Heterogeneous Consumer Search for Retail Prescription Drugs," NBER Working Papers 8548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Babur De los Santos, 2008. "Consumer Search on the Internet," Working Papers 08-15, NET Institute, revised Sep 2008.
    18. Kohn, Meir G. & Shavell, Steven, 1974. "The theory of search," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 93-123, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sergei Koulayev, 2009. "Estimating demand in search markets: the case of online hotel bookings," Working Papers 09-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    consumer search; online markets; structural estimation; maximum likelihood;

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets

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