Price elasticity

In general, the higher the price of a product the lower the demand for it. However, this is truer in some cases than in others, and the extent to which it is true for each product is referred to as price elasticity.

If a 1% drop in a product’s price produces a 1% increase in demand, the price elasticity of demand is 1.0. If it produces a 2% increase in demand, the price elasticity of demand for the product is 2.0 (the percentage change in demand divided by the percentage change in price). Most consumer goods and services have a price elasticity between 0.5 and 1.5, The closer to zero, the more price ‘inelastic’ the demand is said to be.

Demand for staple foods such as salt, or for addictive goods such as cigarettes and alcohol – which people always need or want regardless of price increases – is inelastic. This, of course, is why they are such great tax revenue raisers. Demand for luxury goods or specialist foods on the other hand tends to be fairly price elastic as buying them can easily be put off or cancelled, so demand falls as the price rises.

MoneyWeek magazine

Latest issue:

Magazine cover
Heading higher?

Or are house prices set to fall?

The UK's best-selling financial magazine. Take a FREE trial today.
Claim 4 FREE Issues

'Would you rather upset God, or have Him just ignore you?'

In the first of three interviews with Merryn Somerset Webb, Hugh Hendry, manager of the Eclectica Fund, talks about what it takes to be a good hedge fund manager – and how he learned to stop worrying and love central banks.


Which investment platform?

When it comes to buying shares and funds, there are several investment platforms and brokers to choose from. They all offer various fee structures to suit individual investing habits.
Find out which one is best for you.


21 November 1969: The first permanent Arpanet link

A milestone in the formation of the internet, the first permanent Arpanet link was established on this day in 1969 between researchers in the United States.