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Asymmetric Price Adjustment "in the Small:" An Implication of Rational Inattention

Author

Listed:
  • Daniel Levy

    (Bar-Ilan University)

  • Haipeng Allan Chen

    (University of Miami)

  • Sourav Ray

    (McMaster University)

  • Mark Bergen

    (University of Minnesota)

Abstract

Analyzing scanner price data that cover 27 product categories over an eight-year period from a large Mid-western supermarket chain, we uncover a surprising regularity in the data—small price increases occur more frequently than small price decreases. We find that this asymmetry holds for price changes of up to about 10 cents, on average. The asymmetry disappears for larger price changes. We document this finding for the entire data set, as well as for individual product categories. Further, we find that the asymmetry holds even after excluding from the data the observations pertaining to inflationary periods, and after allowing for various lengths of lagged price adjustment. The findings are insensitive also to the measure of price level used to measure inflation (the PPI or the CPI). To explain these findings, we extend the implications of the literature on rational inattention to individual price dynamics. Specifically, we argue that processing and reacting to price change information is a costly activity. An important implication of rational inattention is that consumers may rationally choose to ignore—and thus not to respond to—small price changes, creating a “range of inattention” along the demand curve. This range of consumer inattention, we argue, gives the retailers incentive for asymmetric price adjustment “in the small.” These incentives, however, disappear for large price changes, because large price changes are processed by consumers and therefore trigger their response. Thus, no asymmetry is observed “in the large.” An additional implication of rational inattention is that the extent of the asymmetry found “in the small” might vary over the business cycle: it might diminish during recessions and strengthen during expansions. We find that the data are indeed consistent with these predictions. An added contribution of the paper is that our theory may offer a possible explanation for the presence of small price changes, which has been a long-standing puzzle in the literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Levy & Haipeng Allan Chen & Sourav Ray & Mark Bergen, 2004. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment "in the Small:" An Implication of Rational Inattention," Macroeconomics 0407012, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 11 May 2005.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:0407012
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Cabral, Luís & Fishman, Arthur, 2012. "Business as usual: A consumer search theory of sticky prices and asymmetric price adjustment," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 371-376.
    2. Dhyne, Emmanuel & Fuss, Catherine & Pesaran, M. Hashem & Sevestre, Patrick, 2011. "Lumpy Price Adjustments: A Microeconometric Analysis," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 29(4), pages 529-540.
    3. Jerzy D. Konieczny, 2006. "Discussion of: Lumpy Price Adjustments: A Microeconometric Analysis," Working Papers jk0035, Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Economics, revised 1970.
    4. Mark Bergen & Daniel Levy & Sourav Ray & Paul H. Rubin & Benjamin Zeliger, 2008. "When Little Things Mean a Lot: On the Inefficiency of Item-Pricing Laws," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(2), pages 209-250, May.
    5. Sourav Ray & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Mark E. Bergen & Daniel Levy, 2006. "Asymmetric Wholesale Pricing: Theory and Evidence," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(2), pages 131-154, 03-04.
    6. Levy, Daniel & Young, Andrew, 2004. "The Real Thing: Nominal Price Rigidity of the Nickel Coke, 1886–1959," MPRA Paper 1046, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Li, Chenguang & Sexton, Richard J., 2009. "Impacts of Retailers’ Pricing Strategies for Produce Commodities on Farmer Welfare," 2009 Conference, August 16-22, 2009, Beijing, China 51720, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    8. Gil S. Epstein & Alessandra Venturini, 2011. "The Impact of Worker Effort on Public Sentiment Towards Temporary Migrants," Development Working Papers 310, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano, revised 09 May 2011.
    9. Stephen E. Spear & Warren Young, 2011. "MD Dialog on: Optimum Savings and Optimal Growth: the Cass-Malinvaud-Koopmans Nexus," Working Papers 2011-22, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
    10. Adi Schnytzer & Yisrael Schnytzer, 2011. "Animal Modeling of Earthquakes and Prediction Market," Working Papers 2011-20, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
    11. Adi Schnytzer & Janez Šušteršič, 2011. "The Regression Tournament: A Novel Approach to Prediction Model Assessment," Working Papers 2011-10, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
    12. Adi Schnytzer & Sara Westreich, 2011. "Information and Attitudes to Risk at the Track," Working Papers 2011-16, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
    13. Babutsidze, Zakaria, 2006. "(S,s) Pricing: Does the Heterogeneity Wipe Out the Asymmetry on Micro Level?," MERIT Working Papers 033, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    14. Douglas, Christopher C. & Herrera, Ana María, 2014. "Dynamic pricing and asymmetries in retail gasoline markets: What can they tell us about price stickiness?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 247-252.
    15. Adi Schnytzer & Barbara Luppi, 2008. "Painful Regret and Elation at the Track," Journal of Gambling Business and Economics, University of Buckingham Press, vol. 2(3), pages 85-99, December.
    16. Azar, Ofer H., 2006. "Behavioral industrial organization, firm strategy, and consumer economics," MPRA Paper 4484, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Adi Schnytzer & Guy Weinberg, 2011. "Testing for Home Team and Favorite Biases in the Australian Rules Football Fixed Odds and Point Spread Betting Markets," Working Papers 2011-13, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
    18. Babutsidze, Zakaria, 2010. "(S,s) pricing: Does the heterogeneity wipe out the asymmetry on micro level?," Economics Discussion Papers 2010-19, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    19. Ehrmann, Michael, 2006. "Rational inattention, inflation developments and perceptions after the euro cash changeover," Working Paper Series 588, European Central Bank.
    20. Arthur Fishman & Nadav Levy, 2011. "Search Costs and Risky Investment in Quality," Working Papers 2011-04, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
    21. Anett Weber & Winfried J. Steiner & Stefan Lang, 2017. "A comparison of semiparametric and heterogeneous store sales models for optimal category pricing," OR Spectrum: Quantitative Approaches in Management, Springer;Gesellschaft für Operations Research e.V., vol. 39(2), pages 403-445, March.
    22. James Yetman, 2009. "Hong Kong Consumer Prices are Flexible," Working Papers 052009, Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research.
    23. Hansen, Kristin & Loy, Jens-Peter, 2007. "Multiproduct Food Retail Sales: A Case Study for Germany," 2007 1st Forum, February 15-17, 2007, Innsbruck, Austria 6568, International European Forum on System Dynamics and Innovation in Food Networks.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Asymmetric Price Adjustment; Rational Inattention; Cost and Benefit of Information Acquiring and Processing; Price Rigidity;

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing

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