Durable Goods and Conformity

49 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2006 Last revised: 2 Jul 2009

See all articles by Christopher L. House

Christopher L. House

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Emre Ozdenoren

London Business School; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: February 2006


Is the variety of products supplied in markets a reflection of the diversity of consumers' preferences? In this paper, we argue that the distribution of durable goods offered in markets tends to be compressed relative to the distribution of consumers' underlying preferences. In particular, there are strong incentives for conformity in markets for durable goods. The reason for conformity is natural: durables (for example houses) are traded and as a result, demand for these goods is influenced by their resale value. Agents may like one product, but purchase another because of resale concerns. We show that (1) there is a tendency to conform to the average preference; (2) conformity depends primarily on the number of people with extreme preferences; (3) conformity increases with increases in durability, patience, and the likelihood of trade; and (4) equilibrium conformity is not necessarily optimal. Surprisingly, there tends to be too little conformity in equilibrium. Conformity also creates a demand for rental markets. Renting does not necessarily decrease conformity however. Instead, renting tends to exaggerate conformity in the owner-occupied market.

Suggested Citation

House, Christopher L. and Ozdenoren, Emre, Durable Goods and Conformity (February 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12028, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=883077

Christopher L. House (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Emre Ozdenoren

London Business School ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

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