Microeconomics - Elasticity of Supply

Supply elasticity is defined as the percentage change in quantity supplied divided by the percentage change in price. It is calculated as per the following formula:

Formula 3.3

The calculation of elasticity of supply is comparable to the calculation of elasticity of demand, except that the quantities used refer to quantities supplied instead of quantities demanded.

Factors that influence the elasticity of supply include the ability to switch to production of other goods, the ability to go out of business, the ability to use other resource inputs and the amount of time available to respond to a price change.

Over a short time period, firms may be able to increase output only slightly in response to an increase in prices. Over a longer period of time, the level of production can be adjusted greatly as production processes can be altered, additional workers can be hired, more plants can be built, etc. Therefore, elasticity of supply is expected to be greater over longer periods of time.

We would expect the supply elasticity of wheat to be very high as farmers can easily switch land that is used for wheat over to other crops such as corn and soybeans. On the other hand, an oil refinery cannot easily switch its production capacity over to another product, so low oil-refining margins do not reduce the quantity supplied by very much. Due to high capital costs, higher refining margins do not necessarily induce much greater supply. So the supply elasticity for oil refining is fairly low.

Marginal Benefit and Marginal Cost
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