In the second episode of the Economic Lowdown Video Series, economic education specialist Scott Wolla explains the concept of demand. Viewers will learn how a change in the price of a good affects the quantity of the good consumers will buy and how changes in market conditions affect the demand for a good.
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Hi, I'm Scott Wolla, and today I’m talking about the economic concept of demand.
Economists define demand as the quantity of a good or service that buyers are willing and able to buy at all possible prices during a certain time period.
Notice that there are two components to demand: willingness to purchase and ability to pay.
I might be willing to buy a new Corvette, but if I don’t have the ability to pay for it, I am not part of the market demand for Corvettes.
Likewise, if I had the ability to pay for a can of sauerkraut, but not the willingness to buy it, it can’t be called demand. I’m simply not in the market for sauerkraut.
Understanding demand provides some insight into the behavior of buyers.
For example, if the price of chocolate bars were 50 cents each, I would buy two chocolate bars.
If the price of chocolate bars were 25 cents each, I would likely buy more than two—perhaps three bars.
If the price of chocolate bars were $1 per bar, I would likely buy fewer bars—perhaps only one.
The behavior I just described is called the law of demand by economists.
Simply stated, the law of demand says that as the price of a good increases, the quantity of that good demanded decreases.
Likewise, as the price of a good or service decreases, the quantity of that good or service demanded increases.
Notice that we include only two variables: price and quantity. That’s all that the law of demand does, it states how a change in the price of a good or service affects the quantity demanded.
If we put the quantity of chocolate bars on the X, or horizontal axis of a graph, and the price of chocolate bars on the Y, or vertical axis, as we plot the information we just discussed, we would start to see a picture of demand, or a visual relationship between the two variables.
The line that is created when we connect the points on the graph slopes downward.
This downward slope means that there is an inverse—or opposite—relationship between price and quantity demanded.
When price increases, quantity demanded decreases, and when price decreases, quantity demanded increases.
In fact, we could recreate this same scenario with almost any good or service and get the same result—a downward-sloping line.
This downward-sloping line is called a demand curve.
The demand curve is not static or unchanging. It shifts back and forth as conditions in the market change.
For example, if you heard of an impending chocolate shortage, you might expect chocolate prices to rise in the future.
As a result, you might run to your favorite candy store and buy extra chocolate bars before chocolate prices increase.
In this case, the original demand curve no longer tells the whole story; it must shift to the right to accurately reflect the change in chocolate bar demand.
Or put another way, your chocolate-bar demand curve shifted to the right because the quantity of chocolate bars demanded by you—and your fellow chocolate lovers—would be greater at each of the given prices.
What Things Change the Curve?
There are several reasons a demand curve might shift to the left or the right. In each of the following examples, imagine that the price of chocolate bars remains constant but something else in the market changes.
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