Do Consumers Respond to Marginal or Average Price? Evidence from Nonlinear Electricity Pricing
NBER Working Paper No. 18533
Nonlinear pricing and taxation complicate economic decisions by creating multiple marginal prices for the same good. This paper provides a framework to uncover consumers’ perceived price of nonlinear price schedules. I exploit price variation at spatial discontinuities in electricity service areas, where households in the same city experience substantially different nonlinear pricing. Using household-level panel data from administrative records, I find strong evidence that consumers respond to average price rather than marginal or expected marginal price. This sub-optimizing behavior makes nonlinear pricing unsuccessful in achieving its policy goal of energy conservation and critically changes the welfare implications of nonlinear pricing.
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