# 3.5: Microeconomics- Zeroing in on Businesses and Consumers


## 6. What are the basic microeconomic concepts of demand and supply, and how do they establish prices?

Now let’s shift our focus from the whole economy to microeconomics, the study of households, businesses, and industries. This field of economics is concerned with how prices and quantities of goods and services behave in a free market. It stands to reason that people, firms, and governments try to get the most from their limited resources. Consumers want to buy the best quality at the lowest price. Businesses want to keep costs down and revenues high to earn larger profits. Governments also want to use their revenues to provide the most effective public goods and services possible. These groups choose among alternatives by focusing on the prices of goods and services.

As consumers in a free market, we influence what is produced. If Mexican food is popular, the high demand attracts entrepreneurs who open more Mexican restaurants. They want to compete for our dollars by supplying Mexican food at a lower price, of better quality, or with different features, such as Santa Fe Mexican food rather than Tex-Mex. This section explains how business and consumer choices influence the price and availability of goods and services.

## The Nature of Demand

Demand is the quantity of a good or service that people are willing to buy at various prices. The higher the price, the lower the quantity demanded, and vice versa. A graph of this relationship is called a demand curve.

## How Demand and Supply Interact to Determine Prices

In a stable economy, the number of jackets that snowboarders demand depends on the jackets’ price. Likewise, the number of jackets that suppliers provide depends on price. But at what price will consumer demand for jackets match the quantity suppliers will produce?

To answer this question, we need to look at what happens when demand and supply interact. By plotting both the demand curve and the supply curve on the same graph in Exhibit 1.13, we see that they cross at a certain quantity and price. At that point, labeled E, the quantity demanded equals the quantity supplied. This is the point of equilibrium. The equilibrium price is $80; the equilibrium quantity is 700 jackets. At that point, there is a balance between the quantity consumers will buy and the quantity suppliers will make available. Market equilibrium is achieved through a series of quantity and price adjustments that occur automatically. If the price increases to$160, suppliers produce more jackets than consumers are willing to buy, and a surplus results. To sell more jackets, prices will have to fall. Thus, a surplus pushes prices downward until equilibrium is reached. When the price falls to $60, the quantity of jackets demanded rises above the available supply. The resulting shortage forces prices upward until equilibrium is reached at$80.

The number of snowboard jackets supplied and bought at $80 will tend to rest at equilibrium unless there is a shift in either demand or supply. If demand increases, more jackets will be purchased at every price, and the demand curve shifts to the right (as illustrated by line D2 in Exhibit 1.14). If demand decreases, less will be bought at every price, and the demand curve shifts to the left (D1). When demand decreased, snowboarders bought 500 jackets at$80 instead of 700 jackets. When demand increased, they purchased 800.

## CONCEPT CHECK

1. What is the relationship between prices and demand for a product?
2. How is market equilibrium achieved? Describe the circumstances under which the price for gasoline would have returned to equilibrium in the United States after Hurricane Katrina.
3. Draw a graph that shows an equilibrium point for supply and demand.

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