Constant unitary elasticity paper

Constant unitary elasticity, in either a supply or demand curve, occurs when a price change of one percent results in a quantity change of one percent. Figure 5.6 shows a demand curve with constant unit elasticity. As we move down the demand curve from A to B, the price falls by 33% and quantity demanded rises by 33%; as you move from B to C, the price falls by 25% and the quantity demanded rises by 25%; as you move from C to D, the price falls by 16% and the quantity rises by 16%. Notice that in absolute value, the declines in price, as you step down the demand curve, are not identical. Instead, the price falls by $3 from A to B, by a smaller amount of $1.50 from B to C, and by a still smaller amount of $0.75 from C to D. As a result, a demand curve with constant unitary elasticity moves from a steeper slope on the left and a flatter slope on the right—and a curved shape overall.

110 Chapter 5 | Elasticity

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Figure 5.6 A Constant Unitary Elasticity Demand Curve A demand curve with constant unitary elasticity will be a curved line. Notice how price and quantity demanded change by an identical amount in each step down the demand curve.

Unlike the demand curve with unitary elasticity, the supply curve with unitary elasticity is represented by a straight line. In moving up the supply curve from left to right, each increase in quantity of 30, from 90 to 120 to 150 to 180, is equal in absolute value. However, in percentage value, the steps are decreasing, from 33.3% to 25% to 16.7%, because the original quantity points in each percentage calculation are getting larger and larger, which expands the denominator in the elasticity calculation.

Consider the price changes moving up the supply curve in Figure 5.7. From points D to E to F and to G on the supply curve, each step of $1.50 is the same in absolute value. However, if the price changes are measured in percentage change terms, they are also decreasing, from 33.3% to 25% to 16.7%, because the original price points in each percentage calculation are getting larger and larger in value. Along the constant unitary elasticity supply curve, the percentage quantity increases on the horizontal axis exactly match the percentage price increases on the vertical axis—so this supply curve has a constant unitary elasticity at all points.

Figure 5.7 A Constant Unitary Elasticity Supply Curve A constant unitary elasticity supply curve is a straight line reaching up from the origin. Between each point, the percentage increase in quantity supplied is the same as the percentage increase in price.

Chapter 5 | Elasticity 111

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