Economics » Elasticity » Polar Cases of Elasticity and Constant Elasticity

Key Concepts and Summary

Key Concepts and Summary

Infinite or perfect elasticity refers to the extreme case where either the quantity demanded or supplied changes by an infinite amount in response to any change in price at all. Zero elasticity refers to the extreme case in which a percentage change in price, no matter how large, results in zero change in quantity. Constant unitary elasticity in either a supply or demand curve refers to a situation where a price change of one percent results in a quantity change of one percent.

Glossary

constant unitary elasticity

when a given percent price change in price leads to an equal percentage change in quantity demanded or supplied

infinite elasticity

the extremely elastic situation of demand or supply where quantity changes by an infinite amount in response to any change in price; horizontal in appearance

perfect elasticity

see infinite elasticity

zero inelasticity

the highly inelastic case of demand or supply in which a percentage change in price, no matter how large, results in zero change in the quantity; vertical in appearance

perfect inelasticity

see zero elasticity

Review Questions

  1. Describe the general appearance of a demand or a supply curve with zero elasticity.
  2. Describe the general appearance of a demand or a supply curve with infinite elasticity.

Critical Thinking Question

Can you think of an industry (or product) with near infinite elasticity of supply in the short term? That is, what is an industry that could increase Qs almost without limit in response to an increase in the price?

Problems

  1. The supply of paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci, who painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper and died in 1519, is highly inelastic. Sketch a supply and demand diagram, paying attention to the appropriate elasticities, to illustrate that demand for these paintings will determine the price.
  2. Say that a certain stadium for professional football has 70,000 seats. What is the shape of the supply curve for tickets to football games at that stadium? Explain.
  3. When someone’s kidneys fail, the person needs to have medical treatment with a dialysis machine (unless or until they receive a kidney transplant) or they will die. Sketch a supply and demand diagram, paying attention to the appropriate elasticities, to illustrate that the supply of such dialysis machines will primarily determine the price.

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