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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 31, 2019

The Rise of Dominant Firms: The Role of Chance

  • Atanu Saha EMAIL logo , Arthur Havenner and Sonya Rauschenbach
From the journal Open Economics


The principal explanations in the existing economics literature for the formation of concentrated markets are intellectual property-related entry barriers, economies of scale, and network effects. In each of these explanations, a few firms have an inherent advantage, allowing them to maintain their dominance. Our study’s objective is to show that even when all firms are equally situated, an industry can evolve from a competitive to an oligopolistic structure purely as a result of random chance. We create a stylized model where firms are identical at inception, with none having any competitive advantage. In each period, a firm’s profit is random with zero mean. The randomness of profits is hypothesized to stem from demand uncertainty and production cost fluctuations. Simulation results show that, solely as a result of chance, a competitive industry transitions to a market structure where only a handful dominate. The antitrust implications of our paper pertain to the causes of oligopoly formation. Notwithstanding that in some cases oligopolies can arise as a result of anticompetitive behavior of firms, we show that market concentration can also occur as a benign, natural consequence of evolution of an industry characterized by firms with uncertain profits.


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Received: 2018-12-17
Accepted: 2019-12-12
Published Online: 2019-12-31

© 2019 Atanu Saha et al., published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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