IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  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.

Suggested Citation

  • Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton & Raymond J. Deneckere, 2002. "Bargaining with Incomplete Information," Papers of Peter Cramton 02barg, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 12 Mar 2001.
  • Handle: RePEc:pcc:pccumd:02barg

    Download full text from publisher

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

    Other versions of this item:

    More about this item


    Bargaining; Delay; Incomplete Information;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pcc:pccumd:02barg. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    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.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Peter Cramton (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

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

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.