Alexander J. MacKay - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
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Alexander J. MacKay

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Alexander MacKay is an assistant professor of business administration in the Strategy Unit. His research focuses on matters of competition, including pricing, demand, and market structure. Previously, he was a postdoctoral scholar at Harvard Business School and at Harvard Kennedy School.

Professor MacKay earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago. Prior his doctoral degree, he worked at a consulting firm that specialized in the design and analysis of business experiments. He has a B.A. in economics from the University of Virginia.

Journal Articles
  1. Bias in Reduced-form Estimates of Pass-through

    Alexander MacKay, Nathan H. Miller, Marc Remer and Gloria Sheu

    We show that, in general, consistent estimates of cost pass-through are not obtained from reduced-form regressions of price on cost. We derive a formal approximation for the bias that arises even under standard orthogonality conditions. We provide guidance on the conditions under which bias may frustrate inference.

    Keywords: pass-through; reduced-form aggression; bias;


    MacKay, Alexander, Nathan H. Miller, Marc Remer, and Gloria Sheu. "Bias in Reduced-form Estimates of Pass-through." Economics Letters 123, no. 2 (May 2014): 200–202.  View Details
  2. Challenges for Empirical Research on RPM

    Alexander MacKay and David A. Smith

    This article discusses the empirical challenges that researchers face when demonstrating the existence and effects of resale price maintenance (RPM). We outline three approaches for finding price effects of RPM and the corresponding hurdles in data and methodology. We show that the quantity test that was suggested by Posner (1977; 1981) does not identify the change to welfare when demand-enhancing effects are considered generally. Finally, we present some solutions to the challenge of identifying welfare effects, and we suggest guidelines for future research.

    Keywords: antitrust issues and policies; antitrust law; resale price maintenance; welfare economics; Price; Competition; Research;


    MacKay, Alexander, and David A. Smith. "Challenges for Empirical Research on RPM." Review of Industrial Organization 50, no. 2 (March 2017): 209–220.  View Details
Working Papers
  1. The Long-Run Dynamics of Electricity Demand: Evidence from Municipal Aggregation

    Tatyana Deryugina, Alexander MacKay and Julian Reif

    Economic theory suggests that demand is more elastic in the long run relative to the short run, but evidence on the empirical relevance of this phenomenon is scarce. We study the dynamics of residential electricity demand by exploiting price variation arising from a natural experiment: the introduction of an Illinois policy that enabled communities to select electricity suppliers on behalf of their residents. Using a flexible difference-in-differences matching approach, we estimate a one-year price elasticity of -0.16 and three-year elasticity of -0.27. We also present evidence that consumers increased usage ahead of these announced price changes. Finally, we project that the price elasticity converges to a value between -0.30 and -0.35 after ten years. Our findings highlight the importance of accounting for consumption dynamics when evaluating energy policy.

    Keywords: Energy; Demand and Consumers; Price; Policy; Mathematical Methods;


    Deryugina, Tatyana, Alexander MacKay, and Julian Reif. "The Long-Run Dynamics of Electricity Demand: Evidence from Municipal Aggregation." NBER Working Paper Series, No. 23483, October 2017.  View Details
  2. Transaction Costs and the Duration of Contracts

    Alexander MacKay

    The duration of a vertical relationship depends on two types of costs: (i) the transaction costs of re-selecting a supplier and (ii) the cost of being matched to an inefficient supplier when the relationship lasts too long. For commodified goods and services, this tradeoff can be the primary determinant of the duration of supply contracts. I develop a model of optimal contract duration that captures this tradeoff, and I provide conditions that identify underlying costs. Latent transaction costs are identified even when the exact supplier selection mechanism is unknown. I estimate the model using federal supply contracts and find that transaction costs are a significant portion of total buyer costs. I use the structural model to estimate the value of the right to determine duration to the buyer, compared to a standard duration. Finally, a counterfactual analysis illustrates why quantifying transaction costs is important for the accurate analysis of welfare.

    Keywords: vertical relationships; transaction costs; contract duration; auctions; identification; Supply Chain; Cost; Contracts; Auctions; Mathematical Methods;


    MacKay, Alexander. "Transaction Costs and the Duration of Contracts." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 18-058, December 2017.  View Details