DP11564 | On the benefits of set-asides

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Set-asides programs which consist in forbidding access to specific participants are commonly used in procurement auctions. We show that when the set of potential participants is composed of an incumbent (who bids for sure if allowed to) and of entrants who show up endogenously (in such a way that their expected rents are fixed by outside options), then it is always beneficial to exclude the incumbent in the second-price auction. This exclusion principle carries over to other auction formats that favor the incumbent and also to some environments with multiple incumbents. Whether it could be beneficial to exclude some kinds of entrants is also addressed. Various applications are discussed.