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Rigidity, Dispersion and Discreteness in Chain Prices


  • Benjamin Eden

    () (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University)

  • Matthew Jaremski

    () (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University)


This paper studies price setting within a chain of grocery stores, using a scanner database that contains observations of retail prices for 435 products within 75 stores over 121 weeks. We find price dispersion within the chain. Stores differentiate themselves by the prices of relatively few items. Typically most prices in the store are at the mode of the cross sectional price distribution, some are above the mode and some are below the mode. The probability of a price change is 3.6% when the price is at the mode and 76.2% when the price is not at the mode. We explain the apparent attraction to the mode in terms of a model in which price discreteness plays an important role but there is no inertia. We also find that the probability of a price change is higher when the deviation from the mean of the cross sectional price distribution is large. But unlike conventional wisdom, the probability of a price change is higher for young prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin Eden & Matthew Jaremski, 2009. "Rigidity, Dispersion and Discreteness in Chain Prices," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0903, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:van:wpaper:0903

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Peter J. Klenow & Oleksiy Kryvtsov, 2008. "State-Dependent or Time-Dependent Pricing: Does it Matter for Recent U.S. Inflation?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 863-904.
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    5. N. Gregory Mankiw & Ricardo Reis, 2007. "Sticky Information in General Equilibrium," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(2-3), pages 603-613, 04-05.
    6. Mark Bils & Peter J. Klenow, 2004. "Some Evidence on the Importance of Sticky Prices," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 947-985, October.
    7. Saul Lach, 2002. "Existence And Persistence Of Price Dispersion: An Empirical Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 433-444, August.
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    10. Luis J. Álvarez & Ignacio Hernando, 2004. "Price setting behaviour in Spain: stylised facts using consumer price micro data," Working Papers 0422, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
    11. Reinganum, Jennifer F, 1979. "A Simple Model of Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(4), pages 851-858, August.
    12. Dana, James D, Jr, 2001. "Monopoly Price Dispersion under Demand Uncertainty," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 42(3), pages 649-670, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. P. J. Glandon & Matthew Jaremski, 2014. "Sales and Firm Entry: The Case of Wal-Mart," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 168-192, July.
    2. Isaac Baley & Julio A. Blanco, 2016. "Menu Costs, Uncertainty Cycles, and the Propagation of Nominal Shocks," Working Papers 918, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

    More about this item


    Price discreteness; price dispersion; price changes substitution; the Friedman rule; seigniorage;

    JEL classification:

    • E00 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - General
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms

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