Marginal Social Cost - MSC


DEFINITION of 'Marginal Social Cost - MSC'

The total cost to society as a whole for producing one further unit, or taking one further action, in an economy. This total cost of producing one extra unit of something is not simply the direct cost borne by the producer, but also must include the costs to the external environment and other stakeholders.

Calculated as:

Marginal Social Cost (MSC)

MSC = Marginal Social Cost
MPC = Marginal Private Cost
MEC = Marginal External Cost (Positive

BREAKING DOWN 'Marginal Social Cost - MSC'

For example, take the case of a coal plant polluting a local river. If the coal plant's marginal social costs are more than its marginal private costs, the MEC must be positive (and therefore resulting in a negative externality, or effect on the environment.) The cost of the produced energy is more than just the rate charged by the company, as society must bear the costs of a polluted river and the effects of that action.

While marginal social cost represents a powerful economic principle, it can rarely be expressed in tangible dollars. We know that there are costs incurred by certain acts of production, although their far-reaching effects make them difficult to quantify. The theory helps legislators and economists come up with a framework to "incentivize" companies to reduce the marginal social costs of their actions.

  1. Externality

    A consequence of an economic activity that is experienced by ...
  2. Utilitarianism

    A philosophy that bases the moral worth of an action upon the ...
  3. Social Good

    A good or service that benefits the largest number of people ...
  4. Marginalism

    The study of marginal theories and relationships within economics. ...
  5. Welfare Economics

    A branch of economics that focuses on the optimal allocation ...
  6. Macroeconomics

    The field of economics that studies the behavior of the aggregate ...
Related Articles
  1. Economics

    Economics Basics

    Learn economics principles such as the relationship of supply and demand, elasticity, utility, and more!
  2. Personal Finance

    Go Green With Socially Responsible Investing

    Find out how morals and ethics can bring you a surprising return.
  3. Investing Basics

    Sinful Investing: Is It For You?

    Sin stocks may seen outright undesirable to some, but these "naughty" industries bring stable returns - even in hard times.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Socially Responsible Mutual Funds

    It is possible to avoid unethical investments and still profit from mutual funds. Find out how!
  5. Term

    Public Goods & Free Riders

    A public good is an item whose consumption is determined by society, not individual consumers.
  6. Investing

    Latin America’s Economic Forecast

    After a ten-year run, the economies of Latin America are in a decline. For sustainable, long-term growth, the region needs structural reforms.
  7. Economics

    Why the Euro Failed to Become the World's Reserve Currency

    Examine the current state of the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency; learn the major reasons why the euro has failed to replace it in that capacity.
  8. Economics

    These Will Be the World's Top Economies in 2020

    Discover the current economic forces that are anticipated to significantly shift the landscape of the world's most powerful economies over the next decade.
  9. Investing Basics

    What Does In Specie Mean?

    In specie describes the distribution of an asset in its physical form instead of cash.
  10. Economics

    Calculating Cross Elasticity of Demand

    Cross elasticity of demand measures the quantity demanded of one good in response to a change in price of another.
  1. Are marginal costs fixed or variable costs?

    Marginal costs are a function of both fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs of production are considered the costs that occur ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Is Japan an emerging market economy?

    Japan is not an emerging market economy. Emerging market economies are characterized by low per capita incomes, poor infrastructure ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. When has the United States run its largest trade deficits?

    In macroeconomics, balance of trade is one of the leading economic metrics that determines the trading relationship of a ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the utility function and how is it calculated?

    In economics, utility function is an important concept that measures preferences over a set of goods and services. Utility ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Which is more important to a nation's economy, the balance of trade or the balance ...

    There is no question the composition of a country's balance of payments is more important than its balance of trade. This ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges ...
  2. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  3. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
  4. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  5. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  6. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!