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Industrial Organization

Reading: The Antitrust Revolution: Economics, Competition, and Policy (5th Edition) by John E. Kwoka and Lawrence J. White, Oxford University Press, 2008. Specific cases in the book: U.S. vs Oracle, Spirit Airlines vs Northwest Airlines, Trident vs Independent Ink, US vs Microsoft

General Approach

(a) Focus on a common practice of modern firms

Examples: advertising, price discrimination

(b) Focus on a common feature of modern markets

Examples: role of new technology, government regulation

 

After choosing one of the two general approaches above, you should decide whether you want to do a case study, an empirical analysis, or a theoretical analysis within that general approach.

(a) A Common Practice of Modern Firms

Select a firm practice that interests you. In preparation for undertaking the research, you should evaluate the industries and major firms to which this practice appears to be important. Compare and contrast: why is this practice more prevalent in one industry than another? Why does firm X adopt this practice more than firm Y?

Brainstorming in this manner should lead you to some interesting research topics.

For a case study, you should examine a particular instance of this practice by a firm (or select group of firms) in an industry. In general, you should pick an instance where the practice raises some public policy concerns. As you are choosing a single instance, I will expect a detailed, micro-level analysis, along the same lines as the case studies presented in The Antitrust Revolution.

For an empirical study, you should collect data on firms and/or industries in which these practice occur in differing amount or form. Use the data to measure either the determinants of the practice (what are the factors that lead firms to adopt this practice) or the impact of the practice on firm/industry performance. An ideal paper would examine both. The main constraints would be [1] the availability of relevant data and [2] familiarity with econometrics and econometrics software.

For a theoretical study, you can do one of two things: you can either write a literature review on the recent models proposed by academic economists to explain some aspect of the chosen firm practice or write your own model (can and most likely will be an extension of an existing model). The first option will require you to read and synthesize quite a few academic papers, some of which will be technical in nature. The second option will require you to gain familiarity with the analytical tools of modern economics, including constrained optimization and game theory.

(b) A Common Feature of Modern Markets

This approach is similar to (a) above but focuses on a market feature instead of a firm practice

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