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The Upstream and Downstream Effects of Government Industrial Policy in the Rare Earth Elements Industry

By Charles Daniel  

The Chinese government has found considerable success in stimulating economic modernization through its industrial policy. The development of the rare earths industry, in both upstream and downstream markets, exemplifies this success. Rare earths are a group of metals whose natural properties make them critical for many pieces of modern technology. Upstream, Chinese raw rare earth producers extracted minimal output in 1985; by 2001 they accounted for more than 90 percent of global production. China stimulated this growth beginning in 1990 with implicit and explicit subsidies for rare earth producers, which enabled them to enter the market and produce at lower marginal costs than other world firms. These lower costs enabled Chinese producers to assume a market-leading position, and this paper explains the resulting developments in the upstream rare earth market through the Stackelberg model, which describes sequential quantity competition. In 2006, China introduced an additional policy of export quotas on rare earths, intended to benefit downstream Chinese firms. These firms depend on rare earths as inputs for the final goods (such as batteries and personal electronics) they produce. After the quota announcement, Chinese downstream firms benefitted from continued unrestricted access to rare earths, while non-Chinese downstream firms faced higher costs on the world market for rare earth inputs. This paper uses the Bertrand model, in which firms compete on prices, to examine the subsequent effects on these downstream markets. While Chinese rare earth producers were harmed by the export quotas, the combination of the subsidy and the export quotas enabled China to complete its economic goals: to first gain leverage in the rare earths industry, and to second transition its economy toward higher-value products and services.

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Advisors: Professor Alexander Pfaff, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: L5, L52, L13

Competition and Innovation: Evidence from Third-Party Reprocessing in the Medical Device Industry

By Varun Prasad   

Healthcare is projected to soon become the industry with the largest amount of spending on research and development in the world. While competition has the potential to catalyze the development of new healthcare technologies and drive down costs, increases in competition have also been thought to hinder innovation as a result of thinner profit margins and reduced incentives. I estimate whether and to what extent competition in the medical device industry promotes innovation. Using Food and Drug Administration data on medical device applications from 1976 to 2019, I examine how original equipment manufacturers respond to the entry of third-party reprocessed devices. I find that, when controlling for year and medical specialty, the introduction of a reprocessed device leads to an almost five-fold increase in new device applications by original manufacturers after both one and two years. These results suggest that an increase in competition within the medical device market has spurred innovation and the development of new technologies.

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Advisors: Professor James Roberts, Professor David Ridley | JEL Codes: L1, D22, L65

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

Investigating a Case of Alleged Collusion in Michigan Public Oil and Gas Lease Auctions

By Lucas Do

The state of Michigan administers oil and gas lease auctions semiannually through the Department of Natural Resources. In June 2012, the international news outlet Reuters published allegations of bid-rigging following the Department’s May 2010 auction. This paper empirically investigates the validity of Reuters’ allegations by analyzing auction bid sheets from 2008 to 2018 as well as other data reflecting market conditions over time. To this end, I first formulate a benchmark structural model of bidders’ valuations and estimate it with auction data from a period during which I assume no collusion occurred. Then, I extend the benchmark model by endogenizing bidders’ decision to collude. Using the extended model and the estimated benchmark parameters, I apply the simulated method of moments to solve for the collusive probability that “best” explains the observed bids during the alleged period of collusion. After discovering strong evidence for bid-rigging, I run counterfactual simulations to estimate the revenue damage caused to the state of Michigan by this non-competitive bidding behavior. I find that the hypothetical revenue damage, summed over the entire alleged collusive period, totals over $450 million. However, although these findings lend support to Reuters’ allegations and are contrary to the Department of Justice’s conclusion in 2014 after they had probed the case, they should be approached only with caution, given the limitations of the available data on the potential bidders.

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Advisors: Professor Jame Roberts, Professor Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: L4, D44, L71

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