Reprinted in Voprosy Economiki (in Russian), Volume 1, 2012.
The field of industrial organization has made dramatic advances over the last few decades in developing empirical methods for analyzing imperfect competition and the organization of markets. These new methods have diffused widely: into merger reviews and antitrust litigation, regulatory decision making, price setting by retailers, the design of auctions and marketplaces, and into neighboring fields in economics, marketing, and engineering. Increasing access to firm-level data and in some cases the ability to cooperate with firms or governments in experimental research designs is offering new settings and opportunities to apply these ideas in empirical work.
This essay begins with a sketch of how the field has evolved to its current state, in particular how the field’s emphasis has shifted over time from attempts to relate aggregate measures across industries toward more focused studies of individual industries.
The second and primary part of the essay describes several active areas of inquiry. We also discuss some of the impacts of this research and specify topics where research efforts have been more or less successful.
The last section steps back to offer a broader perspective. We address some current debates about research emphasis in the field, and more broadly about empirical methods, and offer some thoughts on where future research might go.