Microeconomics 05 Elasticity


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Economics is greatly impacted by how well information travels through society. Today, social media giants Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are major forces on the information super highway. (Credit: Johan Larsson/Flickr)

Decisions ... decisions in the social media age

To post or not to post? Every day we are faced with a myriad of decisions, from what to have for breakfast, to which route to take to class, to the more complex—“Should I double major and add possibly another semester of study to my education?” Our response to these choices depends on the information we have available at any given moment; information economists call “imperfect” because we rarely have all the data we need to make perfect decisions. Despite the lack of perfect information, we still make hundreds of decisions a day.

And now, we have another avenue in which to gather information—social media. Outlets like Facebook and Twitter are altering the process by which we make choices, how we spend our time, which movies we see, which products we buy, and more. How many of you chose a university without checking out its Facebook page or Twitter stream first for information and feedback?

As you will see in this course, what happens in economics is affected by how well and how fast information is disseminated through a society, such as how quickly information travels through Facebook. “Economists love nothing better than when deep and liquid markets operate under conditions of perfect information,” says Jessica Irvine, National Economics Editor for News Corp Australia.

This leads us to the topic of this chapter, an introduction to the world of making decisions, processing information, and understanding behavior in markets —the world of economics. Each chapter in this book will start with a discussion about current (or sometimes past) events and revisit it at chapter’s end—to “bring home” the concepts in play.


In this chapter, you will learn about:

  • What Is Economics, and Why Is It Important?
  • Microeconomics and Macroeconomics
  • How Economists Use Theories and Models to Understand Economic Issues
  • How Economies Can Be Organized: An Overview of Economic Systems

What is economics and why should you spend your time learning it? After all, there are other disciplines you could be studying, and other ways you could be spending your time. As the Bring it Home feature just mentioned, making choices is at the heart of what economists study, and your decision to take this course is as much as economic decision as anything else.

Economics is probably not what you think. It is not primarily about money or finance. It is not primarily about business. It is not mathematics. What is it then? It is both a subject area and a way of viewing the world.

Chapter 05: Elasticity Essay objective questions quiz / Critical thinking questions

5.1 Price Elasticity of Demand and Price Elasticity of Supply

5.2 Polar Cases of Elasticity and Constant Elasticity

5.3 Elasticity and Pricing

5.4 Elasticity in Areas Other Than Price

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Microeconomics 05 Elasticity
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Sample Questions from the Microeconomics 05 Elasticity Flashcards

Question: What would the gasoline price elasticity of supply mean to UPS or FedEx?


The percentage change in quantity supplied as a result of a given percentage change in the price of gasoline.

Question: The average annual income rises from $25,000 to $38,000, and the quantity of bread consumed in a year by the average person falls from 30 loaves to 22 loaves. What is the income elasticity of bread consumption? Is bread a normal or an inferior good?


Percentage change in quantity demanded = [(change in quantity)/(original quantity)] × 100 = [22 - 30]/[(22 + 30)/2] × 100 = -8/26 × 100 = -30.77 Percentage change in income = [(change in income)/(original income)] × 100 = [38,000 - 25,000]/[(38,000 + 25,000)/2] × 100 = 13/31.5 × 100 = 41.27 In this example, bread is an inferior good because its consumption falls as income rises.

Question: Why is the demand curve with constant unitary elasticity concave?


The demand curve with constant unitary elasticity is concave because at high prices, a one percent decrease in price results in more than a one percent increase in quantity. As we move down the demand curve, price drops and the one percent decrease in price causes less than a one percent increase in quantity.

Question: The federal government decides to require that automobile manufacturers install new anti-pollution equipment that costs $2,000 per car. Under what conditions can carmakers pass almost all of this cost along to car buyers? Under what conditions can carmakers pass very little of this cost along to car buyers?


Carmakers can pass this cost along to consumers if the demand for these cars is inelastic. If the demand for these cars is elastic, then the manufacturer must pay for the equipment.

Question: Suppose you are in charge of sales at a pharmaceutical company, and your firm has a new drug that causes bald men to grow hair. Assume that the company wants to earn as much revenue as possible from this drug. If the elasticity of demand for your company's product at the current price is 1.4, would you advise the company to raise the price, lower the price, or to keep the price the same? What if the elasticity were 0.6? What if it were 1? Explain your answer.


If the elasticity is 1.4 at current prices, you would advise the company to lower its price on the product, since a decrease in price will be offset by the increase in the amount of the drug sold. If the elasticity were 0.6, then you would advise the company to increase its price. Increases in price will offset the decrease in number of units sold, but increase your total revenue. If elasticity is 1, the total revenue is already maximized, and you would advise that the company maintain its current price level.

Question: Suppose the cross-price elasticity of apples with respect to the price of oranges is 0.4, and the price of oranges falls by 3%. What will happen to the demand for apples?


The formula for cross-price elasticity is % change in Qd for apples / % change in P of oranges. Multiplying both sides by % change in P of oranges yields: % change in Qd for apples = cross-price elasticity X% change in P of oranges = 0.4 × (-3%) = -1.2%, or a 1.2 % decrease in demand for apples.

Question: Why is the supply curve with constant unitary elasticity a straight line?


The constant unitary elasticity is a straight line because the curve slopes upward and both price and quantity are increasing proportionally.

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Source:  Microeconomics, OpenStax-CNX Web site. Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11613/latest
Heather McAvoy
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