Sarah Moshary

I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. My research interests span topics from Industrial Organization to Political Economy, including work on the pricing of political advertising on TV, the privatization of liquor sales in Washington state, and price obfuscation in e-commerce. Here is my CV.

Contact Information:

512 McNeil Building
University of Pennsylvania
3718 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104


Research Papers:

Price Discrimination in Political Advertising: Evidence from the 2012 US Presidential Elections

Abstract: In 2010, the US Supreme Court loosened contribution limits to Political Action Committees (PACs), sparking fears that big donors could exert outsize influence on elections by funding PAC advertising. However, PACs are potentially handicapped when buying airtime; Congress requires TV stations sell to official campaigns at lowest unit rates (LURs), but does not protect PACs. Data from 2012 reveals that PACs pay 40% above campaign rates, and that Republicans pay more than Democrats. I estimate a model of demand for advertising by PACs, exploiting misalignments of state borders and media markets to address price endogeneity. I find that prices reflect willingness-to-pay for viewer demographics, suggesting that extending LURs to PACs would favor candidates who prefer groups eschewed by commercial advertisers.

Advertising Market Distortions from a Most Favored Nation Clause for Political Campaigns 

Abstract: This paper investigates the effect of a most favored nation regulation that protects political campaign purchases of advertising time. Regulation induces stations to sell less airtime to commercial advertisers to buoy campaign prices. I develop a model of station price discrimination, and estimate demand parameters using Bayesian MCMC methods. Results indicate this effect is substantial – on the order of 10% of total advertising airtime – relative to a counterfactual without regulation. Campaign rates are approximately 40% lower, while lowest commercial rates double.


What is the Marginal Effect of Entry? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Liquor Licensure (with Gaston Illanes)

Abstract: We leverage a natural experiment in liquor licensure requirements to estimate the causal effect of entry on prices and sales volumes. When Washington state privatized liquor sales in 2012, it required retailer premises exceed 10,000ft2 in order to sell spirits. We exploit this discontinuity to overcome the endogeneity of entry to local demand conditions and firm unobservables. We find a 27 percentage point jump in entry at the licensure threshold and an 60% decline in entry for independent stores neighboring marginally-eligible potential entrants. While entry does not affect prices for individual products, we find it boosts liquor consumption, with an additional entrant increasing volume by 30% and product variety by 20%. However, these effects are limited to duopoly and triopoly markets, indicating the size-based entry restriction is a blunt instrument for reducing liquor externalities across the State.

Price Salience and Product Choice (with Tom Blake, Kane Sweeney and Steven Tadelis)

Abstract: We study the effect of price salience on product choice along two dimensions: whether a good is purchased and, conditional on purchase, the kind of good purchased. Consistent with our theoretical predictions, we find that making the full purchase price salient to consumers reduces both the quality and quantity of goods purchased. The effect of salience on quality accounts for at least one-third of the overall revenue decline.


Work in Progress:

 The Effects of Legitimizing Parallel Importation: A Textbook Case (with Bradley Larsen)

Abstract: This study examines the welfare effects of a Supreme Court decision in 2013 which legalized parallel importation—the process of buying discounted goods abroad and reselling them in the US market—in the textbook industry. By facilitating arbitrage across international boundaries, the court decision reduced publishers’ ability to price discriminate. Using a large new dataset on textbook transactions, this study measures the reduced-form impact of the law change on prices, sales, and seller composition; and provides structural estimates of the costs and benefits of international price discrimination in this industry.  

The Efficiency and Equity of State Control: A Case Study of Washington’s Liquor Markets (with Gaston Illanes)

Abstract: The fifty states have adopted radically different regulatory approaches to spirits sales, ranging from government monopoly to free market provision, in an effort to balance revenue generation and negative externalities. We exploit the 2012 deregulation of liquor sales in Washington state to shed light on the merits of state control versus private provision, documenting effects along a number of dimensions: retail prices, wholesale costs, product variety, liquor availability, on-premise liquor sales, beer and wine sales, state revenues, and liquor consumption externalities. While prices increased dramatically at liberalization (approximately 20%), so too did convenience, as the number of liquor retailers expanded from 330 state stores to over 1,200 private providers. We estimate a demand system to evaluate the net effect of privatization on consumer welfare.