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Category Archives: L11

Pricing and Pack Size Brand, Quantity, and Cost Considerations in Pricing Multipacks of Toothpaste

By Stephanie Wiehe

The US market for toothpaste, like many other goods, is shifting towards selling
in bulk. Multipacks of toothpaste require quantity discounts to incentivize consumers, making buying in bulk a great deal for the savings-minded toothpaste-shopper. It is more difficult to understand, however, producers’ willingness to sell multipacks of toothpaste, when margins are necessarily slimmer than single tubes due to quantity discounts. This paper explores the consumer’s decision in purchasing toothpaste as an interaction between savings on price and inventory considerations, like shopping and carrying costs. My model combines aspects of prior works on second degree price discrimination and quantity discounts with alterations to fit the intricacies of the market for toothpaste. The model’s predictions support the possibility of pack size as a tool for second degree price discrimination as shopping and carrying costs  constitute two markets with different price elasticities of demand for single and multipacks of toothpaste. This work adds to the existing literature on storable goods and non-linear pricing and brings a new economics-based approach to a question faced by toothpaste producers.

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Advisors: Professor Allan Collard-Wexler, | JEL Codes: L11; L42; D4

Competition from Incumbent Firms During Mergers: Estimating the Effect of Low-Cost Carriers on Post-Merger Prices

By Jonathan Gao

In an evaluation of a merger, the type of existing competitors in the market should play a role in constraining market power following the merger. In the airline industry, heterogeneity between low-cost carriers (LCCs) and legacy carriers suggest that the types of airline competitors could affect the price effects of a merger. This paper investigates the pro-competitive effects that existing, non-merging airline carriers have on prices when an airline merger occurs. Using data in the years around the 2008 merger between Delta and Northwest Airlines, the results show that average price levels of Delta and Northwest dropped after the merger, with larger price decreases on routes with LCC competitors. There is evidence that incumbent LCC competitors have a larger influence than legacy competitors in restricting post-merger prices and market power, confirming that the type of competitors matters in assessing the level of competition in a market. This paper also shows that much of the cost efficiencies from the merger were concentrated on routes with a hub of Delta or Northwest.

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Advisor: James Roberts | JEL Codes: L0, L11, L13 | Tagged: Airline Competition, Airline Merger, Market Structure

Debunking the Cost-Shifting Myth: An Analysis of Dnamic Price Discrimination in California Hospitals

By Omar Nazzal

Cost-shifting, a dynamic form of price discrimination, is a phenomenon in which hospitals shift the burden of decreases in government-sponsored healthcare reimbursement rates to private health insurers. In this paper, I construct a data set spanning 2007 – 2011 that matches financial metrics of California hospitals to hospital- and market-specific characteristics with theoretical implications in price discrimination. The subsequent analysis is split into three stages. In the first and second stages, I use a fixed-effects OLS model to derive a point estimate of the inverse correlation between private revenue and government revenue that is consistent with recent empirical work in cost-shifting, a body of literature almost entirely reliant upon fixed-effects and difference-in-difference OLS. These types of models are encumbered by the inherent causality loop connecting public and private payment sources. I address this endogeneity problem in the third stage by specifying a fixed-effects 2SLS model based on an instrument for government revenue constructed with data from the California Department of Health Care Services and the U.S. Census. This instrument performed well in canonical tests for relevance and validity. I find that an increase in government payments causes an increase in private payments, and that the relationship is statistically-significant at all reasonable levels. In addition, I comment on properties of the data set that suggest that the original inverse correlation was due to inadequate measurements of market power. I conclude with policy implications and suggestions for future research.

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Advisor: Frank Sloan | JEL Codes: I11, I13, I18, L11, L80 | Tagged: Health Insurance, Market Structure, Medicaid, Medicare, Price Discrimination

Price Partitioning and Consumer Rationality in Internet Retail Markets

By Katherine Bodnar

This paper seeks to further understand the bounds of consumer rationality and search on the Internet. Specifically this paper focuses on how consumers respond to partitioned prices when making their purchasing decisions. The goal of the paper is to determine if consumers are as sensitive to explicitly stated shipping prices, as they are to list prices, in an environment where items are sorted by list prices. After evaluating the data using a non-linear regression model, the results suggest that consumers do not weight partitioned prices (taxes or shipping prices) as much as they do list prices, contradicting the standard economic model about consumer rationality. The results imply that price partitioning is an effective obfuscation method that is allowing retailers to continue to maintain mark-ups and profit margins in Internet settings.

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Advisor: Andrew Sweeting | JEL Codes: L1, L11, L81 | Tagged: E-­‐Commerce, Obfuscation, Price Partitioning, Retail Competition, Search, Shipping Price

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