Monday, January 13, 2014 1:55pm

Surge Pricing

Using surge pricing to allocate transportation services — such as Uber does with its cars — raises consumer welfare through various potential channels, such as increasing the supply of those services, allocating them to people who desire them the most, and reducing search and queuing costs.

Responses
 

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Responses weighted by each expert's confidence

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel
Participant University Vote Confidence Comment Bio/Vote History
Acemoglu Daron Acemoglu MIT Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Alesina Alberto Alesina Harvard Strongly Disagree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Altonji Joseph Altonji Yale Strongly Agree 8
Price responses to predictable surges (New Years) make sense.
Bio/Vote History
         
Auerbach Alan Auerbach Berkeley Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Autor David Autor MIT Strongly Agree 10
Amazing that more things aren't price this way -- they should be.
Bio/Vote History
         
Baicker Katherine Baicker Harvard Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Banerjee Abhijit Banerjee MIT Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Bertrand Marianne Bertrand Chicago Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Brunnermeier Markus Brunnermeier Princeton Uncertain 4
Answer depends on particular market. Competition might be too limited on days with low supply and customers might be "taken for a ride."
Bio/Vote History
         
Chetty Raj Chetty Harvard Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Chevalier Judith Chevalier Yale Agree 6
Welfare-reducing price discrimination outcomes are feasible, but the increase in supply in this example clearly enhances consumer welfare.
Bio/Vote History
         
Currie Janet Currie Princeton Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Cutler David Cutler Harvard Agree 6
Mostly agree, but watch out for increasing the prices of subways and buses at times when lots of people want to ride them.
Bio/Vote History
         
Deaton Angus Deaton Princeton Strongly Disagree 10
Efficiency is NOT the same as welfare! This is probably a good policy, but some people will lose.
Bio/Vote History
         
Duffie Darrell Duffie Stanford Strongly Agree 1
This is basic microeconomics. Pricing different services differently improves the allocation of services, assuming no serious externalities.
Bio/Vote History
         
Edlin Aaron Edlin Berkeley Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Eichengreen Barry Eichengreen Berkeley Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Einav Liran Einav Stanford Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Fair Ray Fair Yale Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Finkelstein Amy Finkelstein MIT Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldberg Pinelopi Goldberg Yale Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Goolsbee Austan Goolsbee Chicago Agree 8
I know it pisses people off but it is true
Bio/Vote History
         
Greenstone Michael Greenstone Chicago Strongly Agree 8
It is critical that the prices are transparent. Possible that redistribution goals are harmed but it is inefficient means to redistribute
Bio/Vote History
         
Hall Robert Hall Stanford Strongly Agree 10
Real-time market clearing pricing is gaining ground, over fierce opposition from all but a small band of economists and entrepreneurs.
Bio/Vote History
         
Hart Oliver Hart Harvard Uncertain 10
Consumer plus producer surplus should rise but in the absence of competition consumer surplus may not. With competition consumers will gain.
Bio/Vote History
         
Holmström Bengt Holmström MIT Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoxby Caroline Hoxby Stanford Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoynes Hilary Hoynes Berkeley Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Judd Kenneth Judd Stanford Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Kaplan Steven Kaplan Chicago Strongly Agree 10
I have first hand experience. Faced with long airport taxi lines late in the evening, the extra amount to use Uber is a bargain.
Bio/Vote History
         
Kashyap Anil Kashyap Chicago Agree 7
The alternative is standing in the rain or waiting forever at rush hour, sometimes paying the premium is just much better
Bio/Vote History
         
Klenow Pete Klenow Stanford Strongly Agree 5
As long as it doesn't make them angry.
-see background information here
Bio/Vote History
         
Levin Jonathan Levin Stanford Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Maskin Eric Maskin Harvard Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Nordhaus William Nordhaus Yale Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Obstfeld Maurice Obstfeld Berkeley Uncertain 7
Allocation efficiency improves but there are gainers and losers and a "welfare" assessment depends on how one weights individual outcomes.
Bio/Vote History
         
Saez Emmanuel Saez Berkeley Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Samuelson Larry Samuelson Yale Agree 8
Surge pricing enhances efficiency, for the reasons listed. Efficiency is not the only goal; anti-gouging laws reflect other worthy goals.
Bio/Vote History
         
Scheinkman José Scheinkman Princeton Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Schmalensee Richard Schmalensee MIT Strongly Agree 9
Uber is making a market, so this question just asks whether having price change to balance supply and demand is a good thing.
Bio/Vote History
         
Shapiro Carl Shapiro Berkeley Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Shimer Robert Shimer Chicago Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Shin Hyun Song Shin Princeton Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Stokey Nancy Stokey Chicago No Opinion
Bio/Vote History
         
Thaler Richard Thaler Chicago Uncertain 5
Uber's ability to increase supply in the short run appears small so price increase may be mostly a transfer to Uber.
Bio/Vote History
         
Udry Christopher Udry Yale Agree 7
Designed to get us in trouble with non-economist family and friends! It's not as simple as we teach in Intro; but claim is mostly true.
Bio/Vote History
         

10 New Economic Experts join the IGM Panel


For the past two years, our expert panelists have been informing the public about the extent to which economists agree or disagree on important public policy issues. This week, we are delighted to announce that we are expanding the IGM Economic Experts Panel to add ten new distinguished economists. Like our other experts, these new panelists have impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters, and their names will be familiar to other economists and the media.

To give the public a broad sense of their views on policy issues, each new expert has responded to a selection of 16 statements that our panel had previously addressed. We chose these 16 statements, which cover a wide range of important policy areas, because the original panelists' responses to them were analyzed in a paper comparing the views of our economic experts with those of the American public. You can find that paper, by Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, here. The paper, along with other analyses of the experts' views, was discussed during the American Economic Association annual meetings, and the video can be found here.

The new panelists' responses to these statements can be seen on their individual voting history pages. Our ten new economic experts are:

Abhijit Banerjee (MIT)
Markus K. Brunnermeier (Princeton)
Liran Einav (Stanford)
Amy Finkelstein (MIT)
Oliver Hart (Harvard)
Hilary Hoynes (Berkeley)
Steven N. Kaplan (Chicago)
Larry Samuelson (Yale)
Carl Shapiro (Berkeley)
Robert Shimer (Chicago)


Please note that, for the 16 previous topics on which these new panelists have voted, we left the charts showing the distribution of responses unchanged. Those charts reflect the responses that our original panelists gave at the time, and we have not altered them to reflect the views of the new experts.

We have also taken this opportunity to ask our original panelists whether they would vote differently on any of the statements we have asked about in the past. Several experts chose to highlight statements to which they would currently respond differently. In such cases, you will see this "revote" below the panelist's original vote. We think you will enjoy seeing examples of statements on which some experts have reconsidered.

As with the 16 previous statements voted on by new panelists, these "revote" responses are not reflected in the chart that we display showing the distribution of views for that topic: all the charts for previous questions reflect the distribution of views that the experts expressed when the statement was originally posed.

About the IGM Economic Experts Panel

This panel explores the extent to which economists agree or disagree on major public policy issues. To assess such beliefs we assembled this panel of expert economists. Statistics teaches that a sample of (say) 40 opinions will be adequate to reflect a broader population if the sample is representative of that population.

To that end, our panel was chosen to include distinguished experts with a keen interest in public policy from the major areas of economics, to be geographically diverse, and to include Democrats, Republicans and Independents as well as older and younger scholars. The panel members are all senior faculty at the most elite research universities in the United States. The panel includes Nobel Laureates, John Bates Clark Medalists, fellows of the Econometric society, past Presidents of both the American Economics Association and American Finance Association, past Democratic and Republican members of the President's Council of Economics, and past and current editors of the leading journals in the profession. This selection process has the advantage of not only providing a set of panelists whose names will be familiar to other economists and the media, but also delivers a group with impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters.

Finally, it is important to explain one aspect of our voting process. In some instances a panelist may neither agree nor disagree with a statement, and there can be two very different reasons for this. One case occurs when an economist is an expert on a topic and yet sees the evidence on the exact claim at hand as ambiguous. In such cases our panelists vote "uncertain". A second case relates to statements on topics so far removed from the economist's expertise that he or she feels unqualified to vote. In this case, our panelists vote "no opinion".

The Economic Experts Panel questions are emailed individually to the members of the panel, and each responds electronically at his or her convenience. Panelists may consult whatever resources they like before answering.

Members of the public are free to suggest questions (see link below), and the panelists suggest many themselves. Members of the IGM faculty are responsible for deciding the final version of each week’s question. We usually send a draft of the question to the panel in advance, and invite them to point out problems with the wording if they see any. In response, we typically receive a handful of suggested clarifications from individual experts. This process helps us to spot inconsistencies, and to reduce vagueness or problems of interpretation.

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