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.


Market Structure and Product Variety: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Liquor Licensure (with Gaston Illanes)

Abstract: This paper examines how market structure, measured as the number of firms, affects prices, quantities, and product assortment. Our analysis focuses on Washington’s deregulation of spirit sales, which generated exogenous variation in the number of retailers across the state. We find that an additional firm increases purchasing because retailers respond by offering greater product variety. However, these effects exhibit strong diminishing returns. We find further that prices do not adjust to competition. Overall, our results suggest that entry restrictions curtail liquor consumption. However, Washington’s licensure requirement appears a blunt policy instrument, as our estimates imply negligible effects in most markets.

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 that legalized parallel importation—the practice of buying discounted goods abroad and reselling them in the US market—in the textbook industry. By facilitating arbitrage across international borders, the court decision reduced publishers’ ability to price discriminate. Using a large new dataset on textbook transactions, we measure the impact of the legal change on prices, sales, and seller composition, and provides structural estimates of the costs and benefits of international price discrimination in this industry.  

Deregulation though Direct Democracy: Lessons from 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 outlets. We estimate a demand system to evaluate the net effect of privatization on consumer welfare.