CFDP 1926

Extremal Information Structures in the First Price Auction


Publication Date: November 2013

Pages: 47


We study how the outcomes of a private-value first price auction can vary with bidders’ information, for a fixed distribution of private values. In a two bidder, two value, setting, we characterize all combinations of bidder surplus and revenue that can arise, and identify the information structure that minimizes revenue. The extremal information structure that minimizes revenue entails each bidder observing a noisy and correlated signal about the other bidder’s value.

In the general environment with many bidders and many values, we characterize the minimum bidder surplus of each bidder and maximum revenue across all information structures. The extremal information structure that simultaneously attains these bounds entails an efficient allocation, bidders knowing whether they will win or lose, losers bidding their true value and winners being induced to bid high by partial information about the highest losing bid. Our analysis uses a linear algebraic characterization of equilibria across all information structures, and we report simulations of properties of the set of all equilibria.


First price auction, Mechanism design, Robust predictions, Private information, Bayes correlated equilibrium

JEL Classification Codes:  C72, D44, D82, D83