Journal article

Consumer search and income inequality

DP Byrne, LA Martin

International Journal of Industrial Organization | Elsevier BV | Published : 2021


Competition and consumer search costs can lead to price dispersion in an oligopoly. IO research has long identified the existence of search costs and estimated their distribution and is now beginning to study which consumers sit where in the distribution. This paper argues for a view of consumer protection and competition policy that considers distributional outcomes along with efficiency. We discuss the evidence on how consumer search varies over the income distribution and provide a literature review that summarizes research on (i) the search-income gradient; (ii) mechanisms for the gradient; and (iii) how search-based price discrimination can give rise to regressive price dispersion. Thro..

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