The Rise of Niche Consumption

70 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2019

See all articles by Brent Neiman

Brent Neiman

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Joseph Vavra

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: August 2019

Abstract

Over the last 15 years, the typical household has increasingly concentrated its spending on a few preferred products. However, this is not driven by “superstar” products capturing larger market shares. Instead, households increasingly purchase different products from each other. As a result, aggregate spending concentration has decreased. We develop a model of heterogeneous household demand and use it to conclude that increasing product variety drives these divergent trends. When more products are available, households select products better matched to their tastes. This delivers welfare gains from selection equal to about half a percent per year in the categories covered by our data. Our model features heterogeneous markups because producers of popular products care more about their existing customers while producers of less popular niche products care more about generating new customers. Surprisingly, our model matches the observed trends in household and aggregate concentration without any change in aggregate market power.

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Suggested Citation

Neiman, Brent and Vavra, Joseph, The Rise of Niche Consumption (August 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w26134. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3432167

Brent Neiman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Joseph Vavra

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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