Coarse Pricing Policies

Kilts Center for Marketing at Chicago Booth – Nielsen Dataset Paper Series 1-027

78 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2015 Last revised: 4 Sep 2019

Date Written: June 1, 2019


The muted volatility of inflation during the Great Recession and its aftermath has refocused attention on the constraints that firms face when adjusting prices. Using new empirical and theoretical results, I argue that each firm's choice of how much information to acquire to set prices plays a central role in determining the patterns of pricing at the product-level and the degree of aggregate price rigidity in response to shocks. In support of the information channel, I present product-level evidence that firms price goods using coarse pricing policies that are updated infrequently and consist of a small menu of prices. Firms are heterogeneous in the complexity and duration of their pricing policies, and this heterogeneity is reflected in differential responses to the Great Recession cycle, with firms exhibiting more complex policies responding more aggressively. I develop a theory of information-constrained price setting that generates coarse pricing endogenously, and quantitatively matches the discreteness, duration, and volatility of policies in the data. The information friction dampens the responsiveness of prices to shocks, and, coupled with heightened volatility, induces firms to keep prices relatively high, to protect against losses in an uncertain environment.

Keywords: Inflation Puzzle, Great Recession, Discrete Prices, Rational Inattention, Nominal Rigidities

JEL Classification: E3, E5

Suggested Citation

Stevens, Luminita, Coarse Pricing Policies (June 1, 2019). Kilts Center for Marketing at Chicago Booth – Nielsen Dataset Paper Series 1-027, Available at SSRN: or

Luminita Stevens (Contact Author)

University of Maryland ( email )

Department of Economics
4121C Tydings Hall
College Park, MD 20742
United States


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