Search with Dirichlet Priors: Estimation and Implications for the Price Elasticity of Demand
29 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2015
Date Written: September 14, 2013
This article is an empirical application of the search model with an unknown distribution, as introduced by Rothschild in 1974. For searchers who hold Dirichlet priors, we develop a novel characterization of optimal search behavior. Our solution delivers easily computable formulas for the ex-ante purchase probabilities as outcomes of search, as required by discrete-choice-based estimation. Using our method, we investigate the consequences of consumer learning on the properties of search-generated demand. Holding search costs constant, the search model from a known distribution predicts larger price elasticities, mainly for the lower-priced products. We estimate a search model with Dirichlet priors, on a dataset of prices and market shares of S&P 500 mutual funds. We find that the assumption of no uncertainty in consumer priors leads to substantial biases in search cost estimates.
Keywords: dirichlet distribution, consumer search
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