Why We Need to Measure the Effect of Merger Policy and How to Do It

Dennis Carlton, Apr 30, 2009

In this article, I explain the inadequacy of our current state of knowledge regarding the effectiveness of antitrust policy towards mergers. I then discuss the types of data that one must collect in order to be able to perform an analysis of the effectiveness of antitrust policy. There are two types of data one requires in order to perform such an analysis. One is data on the relevant market pre- and post-merger. The second is data on the specific predictions of the government agencies about the market post-merger. A key point of this article is to stress how weak an analysis of only the first type of data is. The frequent call for retrospective studies typically envisions relying on just this type of data, but the limitations of the analysis are not well-understood. As I explain below, retrospective studies that ask whether prices went up post-merger are surprisingly poor guides for analyzing merger policy. It is only when the second type of data is combined with the first type that a reliable analysis of antitrust policy can be carried out. There is a need both to collect the necessary data and to analyze it correctly.

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