IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Bargaining with Incomplete Information

A central question in economics is understanding the difficulties that parties have in reaching mutually beneficial agreements. Informational differences provide an appealing explanation for bargaining inefficiencies. This chapter provides an overview of the theoretical and empirical literature on bargaining with incomplete information. The chapter begins with an analysis of bargaining within a mechanism design framework. A modern development is provided of the classic result that, given two parties with independent private valuations, ex post efficiency is attainable if and only if it is common knowledge that gains from trade exist. The classic problems of efficient trade with one-sided incomplete information but interdependent valuations, and of efficiently dissolving a partnership with two-sided incomplete information, are also reviewed using mechanism design. The chapter then proceeds to study bargaining where the parties sequentially exchange offers. Under one-sided incomplete information, it considers sequential bargaining between a seller with a known valuation and a buyer with a private valuation. When there is a "gap" between the seller's valuation and the support of buyer valuations, the seller-offer game has essentially a unique sequential equilibrium. This equilibrium exhibits the following properties: it is stationary, trade occurs in finite time, and the price is favorable to the informed party (the Coase Conjecture). The alternating-offer game exhibits similar properties, when a refinement of sequential equilibrium is applied. However, in the case of "no gap" between the seller's valuation and the support of buyer valuations, the bargaining does not conclude with probability one after any finite number of periods, and it does not follow that sequential equilibria need be stationary. If stationarity is nevertheless assumed, then the results parallel those for the "gap" case. However, if stationarity is not assumed, then instead a folk theorem obtains, so substantial delay is possible and the uninformed party may receive substantial surplus. The chapter also briefly sketches results for sequential bargaining with two-sided incomplete information. Finally, it reviews the empirical evidence on strategic bargaining with private information by focusing on one of the most prominent examples of bargaining: union contract negotiations.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: Full text
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton in its series Papers of Peter Cramton with number 02barg.

in new window

Length: 54 pages
Date of creation: 2002
Date of revision: 12 Mar 2001
Publication status: Published in Robert J. Aumann and Sergiu Hart, eds., Handbook of Game Theory, Vol. 3, Amsterdam: Elsevier Science B.V., Chapter 50, 1897-1945, 2002
Handle: RePEc:pcc:pccumd:02barg
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Economics Department, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-7211

Phone: (202) 318-0520
Fax: (202) 318-0520
Web page:

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pcc:pccumd:02barg. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Peter Cramton)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.