The Role of Outside Options in Auction Design

45 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2008

See all articles by Nicolás Figueroa

Nicolás Figueroa

University of Chile

Vasiliki Skreta

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics; University College London

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2007


This paper studies revenue maximizing auctions when buyersíoutside options depend on their private information. The set-up is very general and encompasses a large number of potential applications. The main novel message of our analysis is that with type-dependent non-participation payo§s, the revenue maximizing assignment of objects can crucially depend on the outside options that buyers face. Outside options can therefore a§ect the degree of e¢ ciency of revenue maximizing auctions. We show thatdepending on the shape of outside options, sometimes an optimal mechanism will allocate the objects in an ex-post e¢ cient way, and other times, buyers will obtain objectsmore often than it is e¢ cient. Our characterization rings a bell of caution. Modeling buyersíoutside options as being independent of their private information, is with loss of generality and can lead to quite misleading intuitions. Our solution procedure can be useful also in other models where type-dependent outside options arise endogenously, because, for instance, buyers can collude or because there are competing sellers.

Keywords: Optimal Multi Unit Auctions, Type Dependent Outside Options, Externalities, Mechanism Design

Suggested Citation

Figueroa, Nicolás and Skreta, Vasiliki, The Role of Outside Options in Auction Design (September 2007). NYU Working Paper No. 2451/26021, Available at SSRN:

Nicolás Figueroa

University of Chile ( email )

Pío Nono Nº1, Providencia
Santiago, R. Metropolitana 7520421

Vasiliki Skreta (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States


University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom


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