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What is 'Elasticity'

Elasticity is a measure of a variable's sensitivity to a change in another variable.

In business and economics, elasticity refers the degree to which individuals, consumers or producers change their demand or the amount supplied in response to price or income changes. It is predominantly used to assess the change in consumer demand as a result of a change in a good or service's price.


BREAKING DOWN 'Elasticity'

When the value of elasticity is greater than 1, it suggests that the demand for the good or service is affected by the price, A value that is less than 1 suggests that the demand is insensitive to price.

Elasticity is an economic concept that's used to measure the change in the aggregate quantity demanded for a good or service in relation to price movements of that good or service. A product is considered to be elastic if the quantity demand of the product changes drastically when its price increases or decreases. Conversely, a product is considered to be inelastic if the quantity demand of the product changes very little when its price fluctuates.

For example, insulin is a product that is highly inelastic. For diabetics who need insulin, the demand is so great that price increases have very little effect on the quantity demanded. Price decreases also do not affect the quantity demanded; most of those who need insulin aren't holding out for a lower price and are already making purchases.

On the other side of the equation are highly elastic products. Bouncy balls, for example, are highly elastic in that they aren't a necessary good, and consumers will only decide to make a purchase if the price is low. Therefore, if the price of bouncy balls increases, the quantity demanded will greatly decrease, and if the price decreases, the quantity demanded will increase.

The Importance of Price Elasticity in Business

Understanding whether or not a business's product or service is elastic is integral to the success of the company. Companies with high elasticity ultimately compete with other businesses on price and are required to have a high volume of sales transactions to remain solvent. Firms that are inelastic, on the other hand, have products and services that are must-haves and enjoy the luxury of setting higher prices.

Beyond prices, the elasticity of a good or service directly affects the customer retention rates of a company. Businesses often strive to sell goods or services that have inelastic demand; doing so means that customers will remain loyal and continue to purchase the good or service even in the face of a price increase.

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