Inelastic Demand: Meaning, Elastic vs Inelastic Demand

inelastic demand
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In today’s economy, few things are worth foregoing, even if it comes at a higher cost. Individual things are often regarded as necessities by individuals who acquire them, even at a greater price, making them inelastic in terms of demand. In this article, we’ll explain inelastic demand, as well as how it differs from elastic demand.

What Is Inelastic Demand?

“Inelastic demand” is a word used by economists to describe a situation in which demand for an item remains constant regardless of how much its price rises or lowers.

The following factors contribute to inelastic demand:

#1. Substitutes 

When the price of a product rises and an alternative product is readily available, demand becomes more elastic. Demand is substantially less elastic when there are few to no alternatives. Gasoline is an obvious example. Because there is no substitute for the gasoline required to carry us from one location to another, we will always purchase gas regardless of price.

#2. Luxuries vs. necessities 

When something is required for daily living, demand does not fluctuate greatly regardless of price variations. This product or service is regarded as essential. A luxury, on the other hand, is desirable but not required. When a family must pick between medicine (necessity) and cookies (luxury), they will prefer the medicine, regardless of cost. 

In general, the more essential the commodity, the less elastic its demand due to the scarcity of viable substitutes. The more superfluous (luxurious) the commodity, the more elastic its demand.

#3. Income or budget of a consumer 

With even a minor price rise, a product that consumes a significant percentage of a consumer’s budget can become unreasonably expensive. For example, a consumer’s housing budget could be set at half of their salary. If housing costs rise even slightly, consumers are more likely to relocate to less expensive housing rather than forego food, medicine, or power. In short, the greater the proportion of a consumer’s budget that an item consumes, the more elastic the demand. 

Low-priced items, on the other hand, can stay inelastic even when prices treble. White table salt, for example, is inexpensive. Most people would still buy it if the price doubled (around $2) because a dollar isn’t a huge percentage of their budget.

#4. Long-term vs. short-term

Demand elasticity is often lower in the short run since consumers haven’t had time to respond or become locked into their present decision. This is referred to as the cost of switching products. In the long run, however, they will have a higher chance of finding substitute items as time passes. As a result, demand is less elastic in the short term than in the long run.

#5. The period following a price change 

The longer consumers have to react to a price shift by finding less expensive substitutes, the more elastic demand.

#6. Monopoly vs. competition 

A product or service produced by a single source (a monopoly) is likely to have inelastic demand. Products in a competitive market tend to have more elastic demand due to the buyer’s availability of substitutes.

#7. Infrequent items

Price fluctuations are unlikely to affect you if you buy anything seldom. For example, an automobile is often purchased every few years, so price fluctuations have no effect on demand. In most circumstances, if the price of a car rises, the purchase of a new one can be delayed until the price drops again.

#8. Usual consumption 

When an item has become the consumer’s default option, the price adjustment of the item has less of an impact on them. For example, because smokers are persistently addicted to cigarettes, the price of cigarettes will not change.

#7. Peak demand vs. off-peak demand 

Due to the vast quantity of purchasers, demand tends to stay price inelastic during peak times and more elastic during off-peak (or off-season) times.

How to Determine Inelastic Demand

Elasticity is the change in demand for a product as a result of price fluctuations. The following equation can be used to calculate elasticity:

(% change in demand) / (% change in price) = price elasticity

For example, if the price falls 10% and demand remains constant, the ratio is 0/0.1 = 0, or perfectly inelastic. The demand curve for a perfectly inelastic commodity is portrayed as a vertical line in a graphical presentation since demand is constant regardless of price.

Inelastic Demand Examples

When the ratio of quantity demanded to price is between zero and one unit elastic, we have inelastic demand. This usually happens when a certain commodity or service is in short supply and so becomes necessary.

Gasoline, required foods, and prescription medications are examples of items having inelastic demand. Price increases on these items have little effect on demand because most customers require them in their daily lives. Demand for luxury items such as high-end cars, dessert meals, and entertainment, on the other hand, is much more elastic.

It’s worth noting that demand for a broad category of commodities, such as fruit, may be inelastic, yet elastic for specific sorts or brands of that good. So, while consumer demand for fruit may not vary greatly, a spike in apple costs may cause more consumers to purchase grapes.

What Is an Inelastic Demand Curve?

The demand curve for an item might indicate whether or not demand is inelastic. Because the quantity requested does not vary as much as the price, it appears steep. Any curve steeper than the unit elastic curve, which is a 45-degree angle measured from the chart’s horizontal axis, will be considered.


The steeper the slope, the more inelastic the demand. If it is completely inelastic, it will be a vertical line.

A product’s demand is determined by five elements. They are price, alternative prices, income, tastes, and expectations. The quantity of purchasers is the sixth driver of aggregate demand. The demand curve depicts how quantity varies in relation to price. If one of the other factors changes, the entire demand curve shifts. Even if the price is same, more or less of that commodity or service will be demanded.

What is a Perfectly Inelastic Demand?

A perfectly inelastic demand is one in which a modest increase or decrease in the price of a product has no effect on the quantity requested or supplied of that commodity. The product has no elasticity of demand or supply. This is extremely unlikely to occur in real life, but it is utilized as a valuable economic theory.

A completely elastic demand, on the other hand, means that demand for the product is directly related to its price.

Another economic elasticity hypothesis is unit elastic demand, which predicts that a change in price on a unit-by-unit basis will result in an equal change in the quantity desired.

What Does It Mean to Be Perfectly Inelastic?

Perfect inelasticity arises when consumers have no substitute items to match their demands for a product or service. It occurs in supply when there is no substitute product to employ in production. If the price of a product changes by 1%, the amount desired or supplied changes by less than 1%.

When the price of a product rises, people continue to buy the same number of products; conversely, when the price of a product falls. Take, for example, the gasoline in your car. You need gas to drive your car to and from work; regardless of the price of gas, you will fill up your tank.

For example, if the price of insulin rises from $100 to $101, a 1% increase, and demand falls from 1,000 to 996 units, a decrease of less than 1%, this medication is termed inelastic. The amount of insulin required remains unchanged despite the price adjustment.

Medication, for example, is generally inelastic because it is required for survival; luxury products, such as luxury cars, are more elastic.

Perfectly Inelastic Products

In the real world, perfectly inelastic items are uncommon. If a product was totally inelastic, a supplier could charge any price they wanted and customers would still be eager to buy it. Food, medication, and tobacco products are the most common examples of inelastic items. Air and water are perfect inelastic items, and no one can actually limit them at this point in time. Food, prescription medications, and tobacco products are the most prevalent inelastic goods.

Gas is another product that may be regarded as nearly perfectly inelastic. As previously said, even if petrol prices fluctuate, you will still need to commute to work and fill up your tank.

Having an inelastic product could determine the product’s supply. If the supplier knows that lowering his price by 10% will increase sales by 15%. He might think about making such a selection in order to be more profitable. If the supplier decreases the price by 10% and receives a 3% gain in sales, he may decide not to cut the cost.

Elastic vs Inelastic Demand: An Overview

The degree to which demand responds to a change in an economic component is referred to as demand elasticity. The most common economic component used to calculate elasticity is price. Other characteristics include income level and availability of substitutes. Elasticity evaluates how demand moves in response to changes in economic circumstances. When demand remains constant regardless of economic changes, a good or service is said to be inelastic; when demand changes in response to economic changes, it is said to be elastic.

Demand Elasticity

The elasticity of demand, also known as demand elasticity, is a measure of how demand reacts to changes in price or income. Because the price of a good or service is the most common economic component used to measure it, it is commonly referred to as price elasticity of demand.

An elastic good is one in which a change in price causes a large movement in demand; the more replacements available for an item, the more elastic the good.

The percentage change in quantity demanded divided by the percentage change in price yields the price elasticity of demand.

The demand is deemed elastic if the quotient is larger than or equal to one. Demand is termed inelastic if the value is less than one.

Luxury items and consumer discretionary items, such as brand-name cereal or candy bars, are common examples of products with high elasticity. Food can be simply substituted, and brand names can be easily replaced with lower-cost alternatives.

A change in the price of a luxury car can induce a change in the quantity desired, and the magnitude of the price shift determines whether or not the demand for the good changes, and if so, how much.

Other factors, such as income level and available replacements, influence the demand elasticity of products and services. People may save their money rather than upgrade their smartphones or buy designer purses during a period of job loss, resulting in a dramatic shift in the consumption of luxury items.

The availability of substitutes for a good or service makes an item more price sensitive. If the price of Android phones rises by 10%, for example, demand may shift from Androids to iPhones.

Demand Inelasticity

Inelasticity of demand occurs when demand for an item or service remains constant despite price fluctuations.

Inelastic products are typically necessary in the absence of adequate substitutes. Utilities, prescription medications, and tobacco products are the most prevalent things with inelastic demand.

Businesses that sell such products have greater price freedom since demand remains steady regardless of price changes. In general, essentials and medical treatments are inelastic, whereas luxury items are the most elastic.

In Conclusion,

The reality of inelastic demand means that some items are more subject to price volatility than others for consumers and enterprises. These are often the products that are the most difficult to replace or avoid.

When the price of a good with inelastic demand grows, you or your company may be forced to absorb the price increase. To accomplish this, you may need to buy fewer luxurious things or non-essentials. In contrast, when the price of needs falls, it may be prudent for firms to stock up to protect against future price changes.

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