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The economics of information Information is valuable, since the right buyer is more likely to find the right seller Middleman is often knowledgeable about a market, which is valuable This leads to the question: How much information is optimal? Information is typically not complete nor perfect

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the economics of information
The economics of information
  • Information is valuable, since the right buyer is more likely to find the right seller
    • Middleman is often knowledgeable about a market, which is valuable
    • This leads to the question: How much information is optimal?
information is typically not complete nor perfect
Information is typically not complete nor perfect
  • Since firms and customers are usually not fully informed, we lose efficiency
    • Firms are unable to notify every potential customer that her/his business is ready to sell
    • Customers may not know all options of companies that sells a good or service
do we want full information in every market
Do we want full information in every market?
  • No
    • Prohibitively costly, if it is even possible
  • In our analysis, we will find the optimal amount of information
the middleman
The middleman
  • A good middleman (or middlewoman) is knowledgeable about the market in question
    • Some customers are willing to pay for this service
  • Some information providers today are not human
    • Google and many other search engines have paid advertising
what is optimal
What is optimal?
  • As usual, we will use marginal analysis
    • We will search for information is long as MB > MC
  • The middleman often provides this information, but at a cost
more on the middleman
More on the middleman
  • Basic information can be provided at low cost, since many people are usually knowledgeable in the topic
  • Very specialized information can be costly
    • Someone may have to do substantial research to get this specialized information

 MC of information usually increases at an increasing rate

marginal benefit of information
Marginal benefit of information
  • Basic information about a product is usually very valuable
  • Very specialized information usually has little value

 MB of information typically gets steeper as the number of units increases

optimal amount of information
Optimal amount of information?
  • Find the point where MB = MC
  • Example: Use MC1 and MB1 curves
    • Optimal amount of information is 7 units, at a cost of $15 per unit
summary the economics of information
Summary: The economics of information
  • Information is useful, and thus has value
    • MB/MC analysis still applies
    • The “middleman” often provides information, at a price
the internet and information
The internet and information
  • The internet has lowered costs, but it also sometimes gives less reliable information at little cost
    • Example: Customer feedback
  • Information markets would be more efficient if information was charged in stores, with prices for goods comparable to on-line purchases
    • American norms prevent this from happening
the internet and information12
The internet and information
  • Stores that give useful information are at the mercy of buyers
    • Buyers can use the information and buy on-line if the good is easily found
      • Free-rider problem
    • Stores may have to cut costs to stay competitive, leading to a sub-optimal amount of information given
the following example is purely hypothetical
The following example is purely hypothetical
  • You can make your own conclusions the usefulness of a store stocking certain merchandise
example of a market where information is valuable
Example of a market where information is valuable
  • Bloomingdale’s website
    • Sutton Studio Exclusive Loopy Terry Casual Hoodie Jacket – Petites’
    • $89 on Bloomingdale’s website
89 that s too much
$89  That’s too much
  • You try to find the same item on other websites
  • You find other websites offering the exact same item
    • Click  Back to Bloomingdale’s
    • Why can’t I buy this from another website?
let s look at the description again emphasis mine
Let’s look at the description again (emphasis mine)
  • Bloomingdale’s website
    • Sutton Studio Exclusive Loopy Terry Casual Hoodie Jacket – Petites’
    • $89 on Bloomingdale’s website
  • Notice that nobody sells this jacket except Bloomingdale’s
where is the information
Where is the information?
  • Some people believe that clothes from Bloomingdale’s is too expensive
  • Why not buy this jacket from bella.com for $50
analysis
Analysis
  • Assumption
    • Any product that is not good is worthless
  • If you trust Bloomingdale’s  pay $89; know with certainty you get a good product
  • If you believe that the $50 jacket is good with 50% probability, you would expect to buy 2 (on average) before buying a good jacket
    • Expected spending: $100
answer
Answer
  • Buy the Bloomingdale’s jacket for two reasons
    • No risk (risk is costly to some people)
    • Lower expected cost to buy a good product
summary the internet and information
Summary: The internet and information
  • With the widespread use of the internet, information is free and plentiful
    • Free-rider problem if store with good information also charges a higher price
  • Sellers in some markets can gain “exclusive” rights to sell an item
    • Buyers can judge in advance the quality, based on who the vendor is
asymmetric information
Asymmetric information
  • Some markets have sellers knowing more about their product for sales than buyers
    • This is known as asymmetric information
  • Most common example: Used cars
    • Buyer knows less about the car than the seller
    • Some cars are good: “plums”
    • Some cars are bad: “lemons”
lemons model
Lemons model
  • When buyers do not have information as to which cars are lemons and which cars are plums, sometimes only the lemons go on the market
  • We will go through two examples to show a case where only lemons are available on the market
example 1
Example 1

Yugo car

  • A used car dealer has the following information about used Yugo limos:
    • Plums are worth
      • $3,000 to the dealer
      • $1,200 to the owner
    • Lemons are worth
      • $250 to the dealer
      • $100 to the owner
    • 100 Yugo limos owned privately
      • Half of the limos are plums, half are lemons
what should the used car dealer offer for yugo limos
What should the used car dealer offer for Yugo limos?
  • Suppose the used car dealer offers $1,201 for used Yugo limos
    • 1,201 > 1,200  Plum owners sell to dealer
    • 1,201 > 100  Lemon owners sell to dealer
  • Profit if all 100 are bought
    • Total value = 50  3,000 + 50  250 = $162,500
    • Total cost of buying Yugos = 100  1,201 = $120,100
    • Total profit = $162,500 - $120,100 = $42,400
what should the used car dealer offer for yugo limos26
What should the used car dealer offer for Yugo limos?
  • Should the used car dealer offer an amount other than $1,201?
    • Offer a higher price  increased cost for no gain in value
    • Offer a price below $1,200  only the lemon owners would sell their cars
      • Profit if $101 was offered  50  (250 – 101) = $7,450
what is the best price to offer
What is the best price to offer?
  • Offer $1,201  profit is $42,400
  • Offer $101  profit is $7,450
  • Highest profit occurs if $1,201 is offered
example 2 everything is the same except the last bullet point
Example 2: Everything is the same except the last bullet point
  • A used car dealer has the following information about used Yugo limos:
    • Plums are worth
      • $3,000 to the dealer
      • $1,200 to the owner
    • Lemons are worth
      • $250 to the dealer
      • $100 to the owner
    • 100 Yugo limos owned privately
      • One-quarter of the limos are plums, three-quarters are lemons
what should the used car dealer offer for yugo limos29
What should the used car dealer offer for Yugo limos?
  • Suppose the used car dealer offers $1,201 for used Yugo limos
    • 1,201 > 1,200  Plum owners sell to dealer
    • 1,201 > 100  Lemon owners sell to dealer
  • Profit if all 100 are bought
    • Total value = 25  3,000 + 75  250 = $93,750
    • Total cost of buying Yugos = 100  1,201 = $120,100
    • Total profit = $93,750 - $120,100 = –$26,350
notice here that the dealer will never offer 1 201
Notice here that the dealer will never offer $1,201
  • Why?
    • Profits are negative
    • Profits can be zero by not attempting to buy Yugo limos
what should the used car dealer offer for yugo limos31
What should the used car dealer offer for Yugo limos?
  • Offer a price below $1,200  only the lemon owners would sell their cars
    • Profit if $101 was offered  75  (250 – 101) = $11,175
  • Offer $101 to maximize profit
what else could the car dealer do
What else could the car dealer do?
  • The dealer could hire a mechanic to try to determine if the Yugo limos are lemons or plums
    • Will do it if MB of information exceeds MC
summary asymmetric information
Summary: Asymmetric information
  • The Lemons model
    • Under what conditions will plums never enter the market?