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University of Toronto Mississauga

1 Supplemental Unit 1. Demand, Supply, and Adjustments to Dynamic Change Note: The authors recommend that this feature be read along with Part I, Elements 6, 7, and 11 of Common Sense Economics. Common Sense Economics highlights how markets work and their impact on the allocation of resources. This feature will investigate this issue in more detail. It will use graphical analysis to analyze demand, supply, determination of the market price, and how markets adjust to dynamic change. Demand The law of demand states that there is a negative relationship between the price of a good and the quantity purchased. It is merely a reflection of the basic postulate of economics: when an action becomes more costly, fewer people will choose it. An increase in the price of a product will make it more costly for buyers to purchase it, and therefore less will be purchased at the higher price. The availability of substitutes—goods that perform similar functions—underlies the law of demand. No single good is absolutely essential; everything can be replaced with something else. A chicken sandwich can be substituted for a cheeseburger. Wheat, oats, and rice can be substituted for corn. Going to the movies, playing tennis, watching television, and going to a football game are substitute forms of entertainment. When the price of a good increases, people will turn to substitutes and cut back on their purchases of the more expensive good. This explains why there is a negative relationship between price and the quantity of a good demanded. Exhibit 1 provides a graphic illustration of the law of demand. Price is measured on the Y-axis and quantity on the X-axis. The demand curve will slope downward to the right, because when the price falls, consumers will purchase a larger quantity. Correspondingly, an increase in price will cause buyers to reduce the quantity of their purchasesThe demand curve isolates the impact of price. Compliments of 2 Other factors that might influence the choices of consumers are held constant. For example, factors like consumer income, price of related goods, expectations about the future price, and the preferences of consumers are held constant when the demand curve is constructed. Changes in these factors will shift the entire demand curve. Using beefsteak as an example, Exhibit 2 illustrates an increase in demand, a shift in the demand curve to the right. Think how the demand for beefsteak would be affected by an increase in consumer income or an increase in the prices of substitute goods like pork, chicken, or turkey. When consumer income increases or substitute goods become more expensive, consumers will buy more beefsteaks. This will increase the demand for beefsteak, causing the demand curve to shift to the right as shown in Exhibit 2. Economists refer to this shift of the entire demand curve to the right as an ―increase in demand.‖ This increase in demand should not be confused with an ―increase in quantity demanded,‖ a movement along the same demand curve in response to a lower price. Now consider what would happen to the demand for beefsteak if there was a reduction in consumer income or a decrease in the price of the substitute goods. These changes would lead to a decrease in the demand for beef, a shift in the entire curve to the left. As we proceed, we will consider how both increases and decreases in demand affect the market price. But before we can do that, we must consider the supply side of markets. Supply The law of supply states that there is a positive relationship between the price of a good and the quantity of it that producers will supply. Business firms and other producers purchase resources and combine them into goods and services. The resources have alternative uses so producers will have to pay resource owners a price sufficient to attract them from other potential users. Thus, product suppliers will incur costs as they purchase resources. Producers are in business to make a profit. In order to do so, they will have to supply products that can be sold for a price that is greater than the costs of the resources required for their production. As product prices increase, suppliers will find it profitable to supply more and more units. This accounts for the direct relationship between the price of a product and the quantity supplied by producers. Exhibit 3 displays the supply curve. It indicates the quantity of a good that producers are willing to supply at alternative Compliments of 3 prices. The law of supply states that this relationship is positive – that producers will supply a larger quantity as the price of a good rises. Thus, the supply curve for a good or service, beefsteak for example, will slope upward to the right. As the price of beefsteak increases, beef producers will find it profitable to produce larger quantities. The upward sloping supply curve reflects the fact that the incentive of producers to supply beef (or any other product) increases as its price rises. As in the case of demand, other things are held constant when the supply curve is constructed. Put another way, the supply curve isolates the impact of price on the amount supplied. However, changes in factors that influence costs will affect the position of the supply curve. Factors that increase the cost of producing a good will cause the supply curve to shift to the left. For example, an increase in feed grain prices will make it more expensive for farmers to produce cattle. As Exhibit 4 shows, the higher costs will ―decrease supply,‖ shift the entire curve to the left. More generally, factors like higher resource prices or taxes that increase the cost of supplying a good will reduce the market supply of a good. On the other hand, changes that reduce the cost of producing a good will shift the supply curve to the right. For example, an improvement in technology that makes it possible for producers to achieve a lower per unit costs, will increase supply (shift the curve to the right). Demand, Supply, and the Determination of the Market Price The forces of demand and supply combine to determine the market price. As Exhibit 5 shows, there will be a tendency for price to move toward a level like $8 per pound, which will bring the quantity demanded by consumers into equality with the quantity supplied by producers. This price, where the demand and supply curves intersect, is often referred to as the ―equilibrium‖ or ―market clearing‖ price. Consider the equilibrium price $8 per pound in Exhibit 5. What would happen if the price was higher than $8 per pound? At prices higher than the market clearing price, producers will want to supply a larger quantity than consumers are willing to purchase. This would lead to an excess supply and place downward pressure on price. Thus, above equilibrium prices will not be sustainable. On the other hand, if the price was less than $8 per pound, there would be an exces
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