Consumer Markets Roundtable

Consumers and Markets

Roundtable Discussion and Research Awards

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The Governance and Technology Center at the University of Nebraska is pleased to share this Call for Interest and Proposals for an upcoming research roundtable discussion of Consumers and Markets.

This will be a one-day virtual event will be scheduled for a future date (note, the original date of March 11 has been canceled).

This roundtable is prompted by the observation that antitrust and consumer protection law largely treat consumers as passive market participants, subject to manipulation by and whims of the firms that make up the market. Louis Brandeis, one of the architects of modern consumer protection law, once described consumers as "servile, self-indulgent, indolent, ignorant." Economic models of consumer behavior—especially those reflected in contemporary law and policy—generally rely on aggregate representative consumer models or other models in which consumers have static preferences. And antitrust law focuses primarily on producer behavior, considering little more than price elasticities of demand and consumer switching behavior.

The discussion in March will bring a group of academics together to explore the role that consumers play in markets and to consider whether the above characterization is fair (either to consumers or law and policy). What agency do they have? Under what circumstances do they drive the behavior of firms, instead of merely responding to choices that firms make? Are they active participants in shaping the structure of industries and firms within those industries? What are the relative roles of marginal vs. inframarginal consumers in industries? Or does Brandeis’s characterization hold water?

Get Involved

Call for Interest

Participation in the Roundtable

We invite academics from any discipline with interest in these topics to share their interest in participating in this discussion. The discussion will largely focus on contemporary law and policy issues, but we recognize that cognate fields have much to offer to these discussions. While the natural disciplinary home for this topic may seem to be law, economics, or business, we expect other fields offer equally important contributions. As David Card noted in his recent President's Address at the AEA Awards Ceremony, for instance, much of the applied work on the role of labor in markets has been undertaken in psychology and sociology departments.

Interest Form

Call for Proposals

Papers Exploring the Role of Consumers in Markets

We also invite applications for research awards to support work exploring this topic. Awards will generally be $5,000, but larger grants will be considered on a case-by-case basis to support access to materials, equipment, data, and similar research costs. This call for proposals will remain open until after the initial roundtable, however proposals will be considered on a rolling basis.

Interested individuals can submit proposals, and find further information about these awards, at the form linked to below.

Proposal Form