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Reserve price effects in auctions: estimates from multiple regression-discontinuity designs

Authors: Syngjoo Choi , Lars Nesheim and Imran Rasul
Date: 31 January 2016
Type: Journal article, Economic Inquiry, Vol. 54, No. 1, pp. 294--314
DOI: 10.1111/ecin.12226


We present evidence from 260,000 online auctions of second-hand cars to identify the impact of public reserve prices on auction outcomes. We exploit multiple discontinuities in the relationship between reserve prices and vehicle characteristics to present causal regression-discontinuity estimates of reserve price impacts. We find an increase in reserve price decreases the number of bidders, increases the likelihood the object remains unsold, and increases expected revenue conditional on sale. We then combine these estimates to calibrate the reserve price effect on the auctioneer's ex ante expected revenue. This reveals the auctioneer's reserve price policy to be locally optimal.

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