Does Price Elasticity Vary with Economic Growth? A Cross-Category Analysis
How does price sensitivity change with the macroeconomic environment? The authors explore this question by measuring price elasticity using household-level data across 19 grocery categories over 24 quarters. For each category, they estimate a separate random coefficients logit model with quarter-specific price response parameters and control functions to address endogeneity. This specification yields a novel set of 456 elasticities across categories and time that are generated using the same method and therefore can be directly compared. On average, price sensitivity is countercyclical: It rises when the macroeconomy weakens. However, substantial variation exists, and a handful of categories exhibit procyclical price sensitivity. The authors show that the relationship between price sensitivity and macroeconomic growth correlates strongly with the average level of price sensitivity in a category. They examine several explanations for this result and conclude that a category's share of wallet is the more likely driver versus alternative explanations based on product perishability, substitution across consumption channels, or market power.
Gordon, Brett R., Avi Goldfarb and Yang Li. 2013. Does Price Elasticity Vary with Economic Growth? A Cross-Category Analysis. Journal of Marketing Research. 50(1): 4-23 (lead article).