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Title: Income inequality and consumer markets
Author: Somekh, Babak
ISNI:       0000 0003 9956 0106
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis consists of three chapters that analyze theoretically the role of income inequality in consumer markets. Each chapter introduces distributional considerations into an economic model where previously inequality did not play a major role. Chapter one uses a consumer search model to show under what conditions the distribution of income within a community is related to the type of firms that exist within that community, impacting the level of prices. We show that if time and money costs of search are high enough, only the middle class have incentive to search and therefore are the most aggressive shoppers. Using a supply side model, we argue that firms located in more informed communities are more likely to enter the market as large low-priced retailers. Connecting these two results, the model shows under what conditions the size of the middle class can have a negative relationship with the level of prices. Chapter two demonstrates how firm pricing strategy and determinants of household location can interact to determine city structure. In this city, consumers and firms live on a continuous line interval. The model consists of two types of firms; many high-cost perfectly competitive firms located in the Central Business District, and one large low-cost "Superstore", choosing its price strategically. We show how the shopping habits of the consumer population, as determined by the relative price of the Superstore and the Corner Stores, can contribute to the various income segregation outcomes described in previous literature. In addition we consider the impact of city population structure on the pricing decision of a monopolist facing a competitive fringe. Chapter three uses a simple model of banking services to consider how deposit-taking banks price for their services and choose the type of deposit customers that they target. This chapter goes beyond previous theoretical work on consumer banking, identifying the role of household income in the access to deposit services. We show that a higher rate of return on investments available to banks lowers financial exclusion, increasing the profitability of low-income consumers for deposit-taking institutions. This suggests that the possibility of financial exclusion increases in periods of recession. The chapter demonstrates how an increase in income dispersion can lead to a greater proportion of consumers excluded from mainstream banking.
Supervisor: Atkinson, Tony Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Economics ; Microeconomics ; Urban Studies ; Industrial economics ; income inequality ; access to banking ; search ; segregation