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: Many democracies restrict campaign fundraising and spending in order to prevent big donors from exerting outsize influence on election outcomes. In 2010, the US Supreme Court broke from this tradition by loosening donation limits to Political Action Committees (PACs), giving these groups an edge over official campaigns, which remain regulated. However, PACs are potentially disadvantaged when spending those funds in television advertising markets: US law requires stations to sell official campaigns airtime at lowest unit rates, but this regulation does not extend to PACs. Using data from the 2012 election, I find that PACs pay 40% above regulated rates, and that Republican PACs pay more than their Democratic counterparts. I estimate a model of demand for advertising by political groups, exploiting misalignments of state borders and media markets to address price endogeneity. I find that pricing to PACs reflects their willingness-to-pay for viewer demographics, and therefore that PACs pay more for airtime depending on the characteristics of their candidate's base.

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.


Estimating the Effect of Potential Entry on Market Outcomes Using a Licensure Threshold  (with Gaston Illanes)

Abstract: We study the effects of potential entry on market outcomes in the context of Washington state’s 2012 switch from a state-run monopoly to private liquor sales. Concern about alcohol-related crime prompted regulators to institute a 10,000 square foot licensure requirement to curtail entry. This store size threshold generates plausibly exogenous variation in the number of eligible entrants in local liquor markets across the state. We find that widening the pool of potential entrants has a small effect on pricing, but a significant effect on product offerings. In particular, markets with more potential entrants see a compositional shift in product offerings towards cheaper goods. Further, we find that the size requirement changes the composition of entrant size, rather than the aggregate number of entrants. 

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.