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Are Sunk Costs a Barrier to Entry?

  • Luís Cabral

    (New York University)

  • Thomas Ross

    (University of British Columbia)

The received wisdom is that sunk costs create a barrier to entry— if entry fails, then the entrant, unable to recover sunk costs, incurs greater losses. In a strategic context where an incumbent may prey on the entrant, sunk entry costs have a countervailing effect: they may effectively commit the entrant to stay in the market. By providing the entrant with commitment power, sunk investments may soften the reactions of incumbents. The net effect may imply that entry is more profitable when sunk costs are greater.

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Paper provided by Portuguese Competition Authority in its series Working Papers with number 19.

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Length: 18 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pca:wpaper:19
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  1. John Connor, 2001. "“Our Customers Are Our Enemies”: The Lysine Cartel of 1992–1995," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 5-21, February.
  2. Cabral, Luis M B & Riordan, Michael H, 1997. "The Learning Curve, Predation, Antitrust, and Welfare," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(2), pages 155-69, June.
  3. T.W. Ross, 2004. "Sunk Costs and the Entry Decision," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 79-93, 06.
  4. Kyle Bagwell & Garey Ramey, 1990. "Capacity, Entry and Forward Induction," Discussion Papers 888, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  5. Dixit, Avinash, 1980. "The Role of Investment in Entry-Deterrence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(357), pages 95-106, March.
  6. Barton L. Lipman & Ruqu Wang, 1997. "Switching Costs in Frequently Repeated Games," Discussion Papers 1190, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  7. Daniel F. Spulber, 1989. "Regulation and Markets," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262192756, June.
  8. Guillermo Caruana & Liran Einav, 2008. "A Theory of Endogenous Commitment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(1), pages 99-116.
  9. A. Michael Spence, 1977. "Entry, Capacity, Investment and Oligopolistic Pricing," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 8(2), pages 534-544, Autumn.
  10. Bolton, Patrick & Scharfstein, David S, 1990. "A Theory of Predation Based on Agency Problems in Financial Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 93-106, March.
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