NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Inference of Bidders' Risk Attitudes in Ascending Auctions with Endogenous Entry

Hanming Fang, Xun Tang

NBER Working Paper No. 19435
Issued in September 2013
NBER Program(s):   IO   TWP   DEV

Bidders' risk attitudes have key implications for choices of revenue-maximizing auction formats. In ascending auctions, bid distributions do not provide information about risk preference. We infer risk attitudes using distributions of transaction prices and participation decisions in ascending auctions with entry costs. Nonparametric tests are proposed for two distinct scenarios: first, the expected entry cost can be consistently estimated from data; second, the data does not report entry costs but contains exogenous variations of potential competition and auction characteristics. In the first scenario, we exploit the fact that the risk premium required for entry - the difference between ex ante expected profits from entry and the certainty equivalent - is strictly positive if and only if bidders are risk averse. Our test is based on identification of bidders' ex ante profits. In the second scenario, our test builds on the fact that risk attitudes affect how equilibrium entry probabilities vary with observed auction characteristics and potential competition. We also show identification of risk attitudes in a more general model of ascending auctions with selective entry, where bidders receive entry-stage signals that are correlated with private values.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19435

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