Good Rankings Are Bad: Why Reliable Rankings Can Hurt Consumers

Laurent Bouton, Georg Kirchsteiger

NBER Working Paper No. 21083
Issued in April 2015
NBER Program(s):Industrial Organization

Rankings have become increasingly popular on various markets, e.g. the market for study programs. We analyze their welfare implications. Consumers have to choose between two goods of unknown quality with exogenous presence or absence of an unbiased informative ranking. The existence of the ranking might affect the welfare of all consumers negatively. With rigid prices, the ranking induced change in demand can be detrimental to all consumers in markets featuring rationing or consumption externalities. With perfectly flexible prices, the ranking might increase firms' market power, and hence lead to losses for all consumers even in the absence of rationing and consumption externalities.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21083

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