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We examine a market in which firms confront a moral hazard problem in the provision of product quality, facing a short-term incentive to produce low quality but potentially earning higher profits from “committing” to high quality. There are two types of firms in the market, “inept” firms who can produce only low quality, and “competent” firms who have a choice between high and low quality. Firms occasionally leave the market, causing competent and inept potential entrants to compete for the right to inherit the departing firm’s reputation. In a repeated interaction, with consumers receiving noisy signals of product quality, competent firms choose high quality in an attempt to distinguish themselves from inept firms. Competent firms find average reputations most valuable in the sense that a competent firm is most likely to enter the market by purchasing an average reputation, in the hopes of building it into a good reputation, than either a very low reputation or a very high reputation. Inept firms , in contrast, find it profitable to either buy high reputations and deplete them or buy low reputations. Download Paper
We construct a model in which a firm’s reputation must be built gradually, is managed, and dissipates gradually unless appropriately maintained. Consumers purchase an experience good from a firm whose unobserved effort affects the probability distribution of consumer utilities. Consumers observe private, noisy signals (consumer utilities) of the behavior of the firm, yielding a game of imperfect private monitoring. The standard approach to reputations introduces some “good” or “Stackelberg” firms into the model, with consumers ignorant of the type of the firm they face and with ordinary firms acquiring their reputations by masquerading as Stackelberg firms. In contrast, the key ingredient of our reputation model is the continual possibility that the ordinary or “competent” firm might be replaced by a “bad” or “inept” firm who never chooses the Stackelberg action. Competent firms then acquire their reputations by convincing consumers that they are not inept. Building a reputation is an exercise in separating oneself from inept firms who one is not, rather than pooling with Stackelberg firms who one would like to be. We investigate how a firm manages such a reputation, showing, among other features, that a competent firm may not always choose the most efficient effort level to distinguish itself from an inept one. Download Paper
We consider a market in which there are two types of workers, “red” and “green,” where these labels have no direct payoff implications. Workers can choose to acquire costly skills. Skilled workers must search for firms with a job vacancy, while firms with vacancies also search for unemployed workers. A unique symmetric equilibrium exists in which firms ignore workers’ colors. There may also exist an asymmetric equilibrium in which firms only search for green worker, more green than red workers acquire skills, skilled green workers receive higher wage rates than skilled red workers, and the unemployment rate is higher among skilled red than green workers, though there are more unemployed skilled green workers than red workers. Discrimination between ex ante identical individuals thus arises as an equilibrium phenomenon. Our analysis differs from previous models of discrimination in assuming that firms have perfect information about workers with whom they are matched, and strictly prefer to hire minority workers (contingent on meeting a worker), and in generating predictions concerning unemployment as well as wage rates. Download Paper
This paper shows that Nash equilibria of a local-interaction game are equivalent to correlated equilibria of the underlying game. Download Paper