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Dealing with Uncertainty: The Value of Reputation in the Absence of Legal Institutions

Nicolas Eschenbaum and Helge Liebert
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Nicolas Eschenbaum: University of St. Gallen

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Abstract: This paper studies reputation in the online market for illegal drugs in which no legal institutions exist to alleviate uncertainty. Trade takes place on platforms that offer rating systems for sellers, thereby providing an observable measure of reputation. The analysis exploits the fact that one of the two dominant platforms unexpectedly disappeared. Re-entering sellers reset their rating. The results show that on average prices decreased by up to 9% and that a 1% increase in rating causes a price increase of 1%. Ratings and prices recover after about three months. We calculate that identified good types earn 1,650 USD more per week.

Date: 2021-07
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