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The Role of Outside Options in Auction Design

  • Vasiliki Skreta
  • Nicolas Figueroa

This paper studies revenue maximizing auctions when buyers’ outside options depend on their private information. The set-up is very general and encompasses a large number of potential applications. The main novel message of our analysis is that with type-dependent non-participation payoffs, the revenue maximizing assignment of objects can crucially depend on the outside options that buyers face. Outside options can therefore affect the degree of efficiency of revenue maximizing auctions. We show that depending on the shape of outside options, sometimes an optimal mechanism will allocate the objects in an ex-post efficient way, and other times, buyers will obtain objects more often than it is efficient. Our characterization rings a bell of caution. Modeling buyers outside options as being independent of their private information, is with loss of generality and can lead to quite misleading intuitions. Our solution procedure can be useful also in other models where type-dependent outside options arise endogenously, because, for instance, buyers can collude or because there are competing sellers. Type-Dependent Outside Options: JEL D44, C7, C72.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

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Paper provided by New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 08-12.

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Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ste:nystbu:08-12
Contact details of provider: Postal: New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics, 44 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012-1126
Phone: (212) 998-0860
Fax: (212) 995-4218
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  1. Paul Klemperer, 2004. "Auctions: Theory and Practice," Economics Series Working Papers 2004-W09, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  2. Jorge Aseff & Hector Chade, 2008. "An optimal auction with identity-dependent externalities," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(3), pages 731-746.
  3. J. Riley & E. Maskin, 1981. "Optimal Auctions with Risk Averse Buyers," Working papers 311, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Armstrong, Mark, 2000. "Optimal Multi-object Auctions," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 455-81, July.
  5. repec:att:wimass:9008 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Avery, Christopher & Hendershott, Terrence, 2000. "Bundling and Optimal Auctions of Multiple Products," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 483-97, July.
  7. John G. Riley & William Samuelson, 1979. "Optimal Auctions," UCLA Economics Working Papers 152, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Vijay Krishna & Motty Perry, 1997. "Efficient Mechanism Design," Game Theory and Information 9703010, EconWPA, revised 28 Apr 1998.
  9. Jehiel, Philippe & Moldovanu, Benny & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1999. "Multidimensional Mechanism Design for Auctions with Externalities," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 258-293, April.
  10. Lewis, Tracy R. & Sappington, David E. M., 1989. "Countervailing incentives in agency problems," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 294-313, December.
  11. Paul R. Milgrom, 1985. "Auction Theory," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 779, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  12. Engelbrecht-Wiggans, Richard, 1988. "Revenue equivalence in multi-object auctions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 15-19.
  13. Jehiel, Philippe & Moldovanu, Benny & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1996. "How (Not) to Sell Nuclear Weapons," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 814-29, September.
  14. Jullien, Bruno, 1997. "Participation Constraints in Adverse Selection Models," IDEI Working Papers 67, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  15. Dana, James Jr. & Spier, Kathryn E., 1994. "Designing a private industry : Government auctions with endogenous market structure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 127-147, January.
  16. Fernando Branco, 1996. "Multiple unit auctions of an indivisible good," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 77-101.
  17. Gale, Ian, 1990. "A multiple-object auction with superadditive values," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 323-328, December.
  18. Jehiel, Phillipe & Moldovanu, Benny, 1999. "A Note on Revenue Maximization and Efficiency in Multi-Object Auctions," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 99-73, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  19. Krishna, Vijay & Maenner, Eliot, 2001. "Convex Potentials with an Application to Mechanism Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(4), pages 1113-19, July.
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