Project Topic Areas

This document lists some general topics for research projects. In some cases, specific research questions are included as examples.  

Auction Design

eBay Auction Design 
  • Many items sold on eBay are very similar, and buyers want a limited number of items. How do the auction rules perform in allocating these items? Do eBay auction ending rules and the prevalence of sniping lead to inefficiency? Are there improvements possible to eBay’s design for these types of objects?
    References: working paper by Harvard graduate student Eric Budish
  • eBay and Amazon both function as online marketplaces. (a) What are the differences in their approaches to bringing together buyers and sellers and setting prices? How do they compare? (b) Amazon encourages user reviews of products, lists of products, and it features related products. Why doesn’t eBay do those things?
Sponsored Link Auctions 
  • Analyze the different auction rules for sponsored links on Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google. Provide empirical evidence of the impact these rules are having on various outcomes. Propose alternative designs.
    References: Varian; Edelman, Ostrovsky and Schwarz; Athey and Ellison
Auction Design for Other Markets 
  • Landing Slots at Airports
  • Pollution Permits
  • Electricity
  • Spectrum: see data

Two-Sided Markets

Online Advertising Markets 
  • Various “advertising networks” and “advertising exchanges” are currently competing to match publishers and advertisers. Compare and contrast the different models.
  • Recently Google made a deal to buy DoubleClick, a large online advertising network. This merger is currently being challenged by the FTC. Develop an argument in favor of or against the merger.
  • Consumers may have heterogeneous preferences for privacy. Advertising networks and companies like Google are gathering more and more information about consumers (e.g. Google reads Gmail) and using it to target advertising. Does the market for privacy work? What is the role for government oversight or intervention, if any?
Other Two-sided Markets 
  • For many years real estate commissions held steady at 6%. Real estate agents who competed on price were punished in various ways by the industry. Recently some alternatives have arisen. What are the issues with designing an alternative market for residential real estate? Can they succeed on a large scale?
  • and specialize in different sides of the market. What allows them to co-exist? Could either gain a competitive edge by changing the market design?
  • Recently some online communities have emerged for matching borrowers and lenders. What are the market design issues? Do the markets work?
  • Other examples: Video games, credit cards, yellow pages, operating systems, media markets, dating websites, real estate

Matching Markets

  • Organ transplants
  • Roommates
  • Class assignments
  • Dating
  • Labor markets (medical residents, economists)
  • College admissions
  • Sororities

Health Care Systems

  • In the next election, the candidates will make proposals for health care reform. Describe, compare and contrast the alternative proposals. Can any of them improve efficiency?