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# PRICE ELASTICY OF DEMAND Elasticity provides a way of measuring how sensitive demand or supply is to factors such as a change in price.

Take the relationship between price and quantity demanded. We know that if price rises then people will buy less but we do not know how much less. Price elasticity of demand allows us to calculate this.

Price elasticity of demand (PED) The formula for price elasticity of demand (PED) is (P/Q) (Q/P) OR % change in quantity demanded % change in price of the good So if the price of osteopathy rose by 10% and the quantity bought fell by 5% then the PED would be 5%/+10% = -0.5. This tells us that demand for osteopathy is not particularly sensitive to changes in price. It is what economists call price inelastic. Take another example, if the price of eye tests fell by 20% and the quantity of eye tests bought rose by 30% then the value of PED would be +30%/20% = -1.5. In this case the demand for eye tests is price elastic, i.e. sensitive to changes in price. Notice several things about PED. First, the value of PED is always negative reflecting the inverse relationship between price and quantity demanded. Second, PED is just a number, it is not expressed in terms of any particular units. How do we know whether demand is elastic or inelastic? The rule is: Demand is price inelastic whenever the % change in price leads to a smaller % change in quantity demanded. This gives PED values between 0 and 1. Demand is price elastic whenever the % change in price leads to a larger % change in quantity demanded. This gives PED values between 1 and infinity. Price elasticity of demand allows us to predict what will happen to spending when

price changes. Take the example of the increase in the price of osteopathy used above. As the price of osteopathy rises, people will buy fewer treatments but will they spend less? Suppose the price of a treatment rose from 20 an hour to 22 (a price increase of 10%). At 20 an hour, consumers were buying 1,000 treatments per week and spending 20,000. After the price rise, they bought 950 a week (a fall of 5%) but their spending had risen to 20,900 (= 950 x 22). So the answer in this case is no. People spend more on osteopathy after the price rise because the percentage increase in price is greater than the percentage fall in sales volume. So although osteopaths sell fewer treatments, the higher price of each treatment more than offsets the lost quantity of treatments sold. This gives us a general rule: If PED is inelastic, a rise in price will lead to people spending more while a fall in price will lead to people spending less; If PED is elastic, a rise in price will lead to people spending less while a fall in price will lead to people spending more. Price elasticity of demand allows economists to analyse and predict the effect of changes in prices on different markets. We can see an example of this by looking at the debate over cost sharing in health care.

Consumer Surplus In this note we look at the importance of willingness to pay for different goods and services. When there is a difference between the price that you actually pay in the market and the price or value that you place on the product, then the concept of consumer surplus becomes a useful one to look at. Defining consumer surplus Consumer surplus is a measure of the welfare that people gain from the consumption of goods and services, or a measure of the benefits they derive from the exchange of goods. Consumer surplus is the difference between the total amount that consumers are willing and able to pay for a good or service (indicated by the demand curve) and the total amount that they actually do pay (i.e. the market price for the product). The level of consumer surplus is shown by the area under the demand curve and above the ruling market price as illustrated in the diagram below:

Consumer surplus and price elasticity of demand When the demand for a good or service is perfectly elastic, consumer surplus is zero because the price that people pay matches precisely the price they are willing to pay. This is most likely to happen in highly competitive markets where each individual firm is assumed to be a price taker in their chosen market and must sell as much as it can at the ruling market price. In contrast, when demand is perfectly inelastic, consumer surplus is infinite. Demand is totally invariant to a price change. Whatever the price, the quantity demanded remains the same. Are there any examples of products that have such a low price elasticity of demand? The majority of demand curves are downward sloping. When demand is inelastic, there is a greater potential consumer surplus because there are some buyers willing to pay a high price to continue consuming the product. This is shown in the diagram below:

## Changes in demand and consumer surplus

W hen there is a shift in the demand curve leading to a change in the equilibrium market price and quantity, then the level of consumer surplus will alter. This is shown in the diagrams above. In the left hand diagram, following an increase in demand from D1 to D2, the equilibrium market price rises to from P1 to P2 and the quantity traded expands. There is a higher level of consumer surplus because more is being bought at a higher price than before. In the diagram on the right we see the effects of a cost reducing innovation which causes an outward shift of market supply, a lower price and an increase in the quantity traded in the market. As a result, there is an increase in consumer welfare shown by a rise in consumer surplus. Consumer surplus can be used frequently when analysing the impact of government intervention in any market for example the effects of indirect taxation on cigarettes consumers or the introducing of road pricing schemes such as the London congestion charge. Producer Surplus

Producer surplus relates to the welfare that businesses can achieve by supplying products to the market. Defining producer surplus Producer surplus is a measure of producer welfare. It is measured as the difference between what producers are willing and able to supply a good for and the price they actually receive. The level of producer surplus is shown by the

area above the supply curve and below the market price and is illustrated in this diagram.

Producer surplus and changes in demand and supply We first consider the effects of a change in market supply for example caused by an improvement in production technology or a fall in the cost of raw materials and components used in the production of a good or service.