The Determinants And Consequences Of Search Cost Heterogeneity: Evidence From Local Gasoline Markets

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Journal Of Marketing Research


Information frictions play a key role in an array of economic activities and are frequently incorporated into formal models as search costs. However, little is known about the underlying source of consumer search costs and how heterogeneous they are across markets. This study analyzes the sources and magnitude of heterogeneity in consumer search costs in retail gasoline markets. In doing so, the authors also investigate the extent to which retail gasoline stations employ mixed pricing strategies. They identify hundreds of geographically isolated markets and are the first to estimate the distribution of consumer search costs for many geographic markets. They directly recover the distribution of consumer search costs, market by market, using price data for retail gasoline in the United States. They find that the distribution of consumer search costs varies significantly across geographic markets and that distribution of household income is closely associated with search cost distribution.


search costs, consumer search, price dispersion, pricing, retail gasoline