Pricing under Fairness Concerns
authors・Erik Eyster, Kristof Madarasz, Pascal Michaillat
abstract・This paper proposes a theory of pricing based on two facts: customers care about the fairness of prices, and firms take these concerns into account when setting prices. The theory assumes that customers dislike unfair prices, namely those marked up steeply over cost. Since costs are unobservable, customers must extract them from prices. The theory assumes that customers infer less than rationally: when a price rises after a cost increase, customers partially misattribute the higher price to a higher markup—which they find unfair. Firms anticipate this response and trim their price increases, which drives the passthrough of costs into prices below one: prices are somewhat rigid. Embedded in a New Keynesian model as a replacement for the usual pricing frictions, our theory produces monetary-policy nonneutrality: when monetary policy loosens and inflation rises, customers misperceive markups as higher and feel unfairly treated; firms mitigate this perceived unfairness by reducing their markups; in general equilibrium, employment rises. The New Keynesian model also features a hybrid short-run Phillips curve, realistic impulse responses of output and employment to monetary and technology shocks, and an upward-sloping long-run Phillips curve.