Price Controls and Consumer Surplus

Stanford Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2086

28 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2011

See all articles by Jeremy Bulow

Jeremy Bulow

Stanford University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Paul Klemperer

University of Oxford - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 1, 2011

Abstract

Price controls lead to misallocation of goods and encourage rent-seeking. The misallocation effect alone is enough to ensure that consumer surplus is always reduced by a price control in an otherwise-competitive market with convex demand if supply is more elastic than demand; or when demand is log-convex (e.g., constant-elasticity) even if supply is inelastic. The same results apply both when rationed goods are allocated by costless lottery among interested consumers, and when costly rent-seeking and/or partial de control mitigates the allocative inefficiency. The results are best understood using the fact that in any market, consumer surplus equals the area between the demand curve and the industry marginal revenue curve.

Keywords: rationing, allocative efficiency, microeconomic theory, marginal revenue, minimum wage, rent control,consumer welfare, rent seeking

JEL Classification: D45, D61, D6

Suggested Citation

Bulow, Jeremy I. and Klemperer, Paul, Price Controls and Consumer Surplus (October 1, 2011). Stanford Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2086. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1956808 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1956808

Jeremy I. Bulow (Contact Author)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Paul Klemperer

University of Oxford - Department of Economics ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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