Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 22 No. 1 (Winter 2008)
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Markets: Ready-Mixed Concrete
Syverson, Chad. 2008. "Markets: Ready-Mixed Concrete." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(1): 217-234.
Concrete's natural color is gray. Its favored uses are utilitarian. Its very ubiquity causes it to blend into the background. But ready-mix concrete does have one remarkable characteristic: other than manufactured ice, perhaps no other manufacturing industry faces greater transport barriers. The transportation problem arises because ready-mix concrete both has a low value-to-weight ratio and is highly perishable -- it absolutely must be discharged from the truck before it hardens. These transportation barriers mean ready-mixed concrete must be produced near its customers. For the same reason, foreign trade in ready-mixed concrete is essentially nonexistent. This article is an introduction to the basics of the market for ready-mix concrete, focusing mainly on its consumers and its producers in the United States, but with occasional comparisons to other countries when contrasts are useful.
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