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Are Sunk Costs A Barrier To Entry?


  • Luis M.B. Cabral
  • Thomas Ross


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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Suggested Citation

  • Luis M.B. Cabral & Thomas Ross, 2006. "Are Sunk Costs A Barrier To Entry?," Working Papers 06-09, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ste:nystbu:06-09

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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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    7. Dixit, Avinash, 1980. "The Role of Investment in Entry-Deterrence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(357), pages 95-106, March.
    8. John Connor, 2001. "“Our Customers Are Our Enemies”: The Lysine Cartel of 1992–1995," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 18(1), pages 5-21, February.
    9. T.W. Ross, 2004. "Sunk Costs and the Entry Decision," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 79-93, June.
    10. 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 155-169, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francesca DI IORIO & Maria Letizia GIORGETTI, 2017. "Entry and Patents: Evidence from the US Cardiovascular Pharmaceutical Sector," Departmental Working Papers 2017-07, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    2. Bryson, Alex & Dale-Olsen, Harald, 2008. "A tale of two countries: unions, closures and growth in Britain and Norway," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19589, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Ioannis Kessides & Li Tang, 2010. "Sunk Costs, Market Contestability, and the Size Distribution of Firms," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 37(3), pages 215-236, November.
    4. Gianni Amisano & Maria Letizia Giorgetti, 2013. "Entry Into Pharmaceutical Submarkets: A Bayesian Panel Probit Analysis," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(4), pages 667-701, June.
    5. Maria Letizia GIORGETTI & Maria Luisa MANCUSI, 2016. "Entry and Patenting in the Pharmaceutical Industry," Departmental Working Papers 2016-02, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    6. Robert S. Pindyck, 2009. "Sunk Costs and Risk-Based Barriers to Entry," NBER Working Papers 14755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Pannone, Andrea, 2010. "Production, unemployment and wage flexibility in an ICT-assisted economy: A model," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 219-230, August.

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    JEL classification:

    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets

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