Theoretical Economics, Volume 4, Number 1 (March 2009)

Theoretical Economics 4 (2009), 89–125

Monopolistic group design with peer effects

Simon Board


In a range of settings, private firms manage peer effects by sorting agents into different groups, be they schools, communities, or product categories. This paper considers such a firm, which controls group entry by setting a series of anonymous prices. We show that private provision systematically leads to two distortions relative to the efficient solution: first, agents are segregated too finely; second, too many agents are excluded from all groups. We demonstrate that these distortions are a consequence of anonymous pricing and do not depend upon the nature of the peer effects. This general approach also allows us to assess the way the `returns to scale' of peer technology and the cost of group formation affect the optimal group structure.

Keywords: Mechanism design, peer effects, public goods, network effects

JEL classification: D82, H40, L12

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