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Elasticity vs. Inelasticity of Demand: What’s the Difference?

Elasticity vs. Inelasticity: An Overview

The elasticity of demand refers to the degree to which demand responds to a change in an economic factor.

Price is the most common economic factor used when determining elasticity. Other factors include income level and substitute availability.

Elasticity measures how demand shifts when economic factors change. When demand remains constant regardless of price changes, it is called inelasticity.

Key Takeaways

  • The elasticity of demand refers to the change in demand when there is a change in another economic factor, such as price or income.
  • Demand is considered inelastic if demand for a good or service remains unchanged even when the price changes,
  • Elastic goods include luxury items and certain food and beverages as changes in their prices affect demand.
  • Inelastic goods may include items such as tobacco and prescription drugs as demand often remains constant despite price changes.

What Is Elasticity?

Elasticity of Demand

The elasticity of demand, or demand elasticity, measures how demand responds to a change in price or income. It is commonly referred to as price elasticity of demand because the price of a good or service is the most common economic factor used to measure it.

An elastic good is defined as one where a change in price leads to a significant shift in demand and where substitutes are available for an item, the more elastic the good will be.

The price elasticity of demand is calculated by dividing the percentage change in quantity demanded by the percentage change in price.

If the quotient is greater than or equal to one, the demand is considered to be elastic. If the value is less than one, demand is considered inelastic.

Common examples of products with high elasticity are luxury items and consumer discretionary items, such as a brand of cereal or candy bars. Food products are easily substituted and brand names are easily replaced by lower-priced items.

A change in the price of a luxury car can cause a change in the quantity demanded, and the extent of the price change will determine whether or not the demand for the good changes and if so, by how much.

Other factors influence the demand elasticity of goods and services such as income level and available substitutes. During a period of job loss, people may save their money rather than upgrading their smartphones or buying designer purses, leading to a significant change in the consumption of luxury goods.

Available substitutes for a good or service makes an item more sensitive to price changes. If the price of Android phones increases by 10%, this could move demand from Android to iPhones.

Inelasticity of Demand

Inelasticity of demand is evident when demand for a good or service is static when its price or other factor changes,

Inelastic products are usually necessities without acceptable substitutes. The most common goods with inelastic demand are utilities, prescription drugs, and tobacco products. Businesses offering such products maintain greater flexibility with prices because demand remains constant even if prices increase or decrease.

The most common goods with inelastic demand are utilities, prescription drugs, and tobacco products. In general, necessities and medical treatments tend to be inelastic, while luxury goods tend to be most elastic.

Cross Elasticity of Demand

The cross elasticity of demand measures the responsiveness in quantity demanded of one good when the price of another changes. Cross elasticity of demand can refer to substitute goods or complementary goods. When the price of one good increases, the demand for a substitute good will increase as consumers seek a substitute for the more expensive item. Conversely, when the price of a good rises, any items closely associated with it and necessary for its consumption will also decrease.

Advertising Elasticity of Demand

The advertising elasticity of demand (AED) is a measure of a market’s sensitivity to increases or decreases in advertising saturation. The elasticity of an advertising campaign is measured by its ability to generate new sales.

Positive advertising elasticity means that an uptick in advertising leads to an increase in demand for the goods or services advertised. A good advertising campaign will lead to a positive shift in demand for a good.

What Are the 4 Types of Elasticity?

The four main types of elasticity of demand are price elasticity of demand, cross elasticity of demand, income elasticity of demand, and advertising elasticity of demand. They are based on price changes of the product, price changes of a related good, income changes, and changes in promotional expenses, respectively.

How Is Elasticity Measured?

Elasticity is measured by the ratio of two percentages, measured by calculating the ratio of the change in the quantity demanded to the change in the price.

What Does a Price Elasticity of 1.5 Mean?

If the price elasticity is equal to 1.5, it means that the quantity of a product’s demand has increased 15% in response to a 10% reduction in price (15% / 10% = 1.5). 

The Bottom Line

Elasticity occurs when demand responds to changes in price or other factors. Inelasticity of demand means that demand remains constant even with changes in economic factors.

Products and services for which consumers have many options commonly have elastic demand, while products and services for which consumers have few alternatives are most often inelastic

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