# In this chapter, look for the answers to these questions:

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Chapter 6

In this chapter, look for the answers to these questions:
What are price ceilings and price floors? What are some examples of each? How do price ceilings and price floors affect market outcomes? How do taxes affect market outcomes? How does the outcome depend on whether the tax is imposed on buyers or sellers? What is the incidence of a tax? What determines the incidence? When we talk about how a policy “affects the market outcome,” we mean the policy’s impact on the price and quantity, and therefore the allocation of resources. This chapter’s concluding slide elabourates on this a bit.

Government Policies That Alter the Private Market Outcome
Price controls Price ceiling: a legal maximum on the price of a good or service. Example: rent control. Price floor: a legal minimum on the price of a good or service. Example: minimum wage. Taxes The gov’t can make buyers or sellers pay a specific amount on each unit bought/sold. This slide presents an outline of the chapter. We will use the supply/demand model to see how each policy affects the market outcome (the price buyers pay, the price sellers receive, and equilibrium quantity).

EXAMPLE 1: The Market for Apartments
Q Rental price of apartments S D \$800 300 Eq’m w/o price controls We start by analyzing the effects of a price ceiling. The most common example is rent control, so we do the analysis in the context of this example. We begin by showing the market for apartments in equilibrium (before the government imposes any price controls). Quantity of apartments

How Price Ceilings Affect Market Outcomes
Q A price ceiling above the eq’m price is not binding – it has no effect on the market outcome. S Price ceiling \$1000 D \$800 300 When some students see this for the first time, they wonder why the price ceiling does not result in a surplus. When the price ceiling is above the equilibrium price, the equilibrium price is still perfectly legal. Just because landlords are allowed to charge \$1000 rent doesn’t mean they will – if they do, they won’t be able to rent all of their apartments – a surplus will result, causing downward pressure on the price (rent). There’s no law that prevents the price (rent) from falling, so it does fall until the surplus is gone and equilibrium is reached (at P = \$800 and Q = 300).

How Price Ceilings Affect Market Outcomes
The eq’m price (\$800) is above the ceiling and therefore illegal. The ceiling is a binding constraint on the price, and causes a shortage. P Q S D \$800 Price ceiling \$500 250 400 shortage In this case, the price ceiling is binding. In the new equilibrium with the price ceiling, the actual price (rent) of an apartment will be \$500. It won’t be more than that, because any higher price is illegal. It won’t be less than \$500, because the shortage would be even larger if the price were lower. The actual quantity of apartments rented equals 250, and there is a shortage equal to 150 (the difference between the quantity demanded, 400, and the quantity supplied, 250.

How Price Ceilings Affect Market Outcomes
Q D S \$800 Price ceiling \$500 250 400 shortage P Q D S \$800 150 Price ceiling \$500 450 shortage In the long run, supply and demand are more price-elastic. So, the shortage is larger. In this slide, the equilibrium price (\$800) and price ceiling (\$500) are the same as on the preceding slides, but supply and demand are more price-elastic than before, and the shortage that results from a binding price ceiling is larger.

Shortages and Rationing
With a shortage, sellers must ration the goods among buyers. Some rationing mechanisms: (1) long lines (2) discrimination according to sellers’ biases These mechanisms are often unfair, and inefficient: the goods don’t necessarily go to the buyers who value them most highly. In contrast, when prices are not controlled, the rationing mechanism is efficient (the goods go to the buyers that value them most highly) and impersonal (and thus fair). The last two bullet points discuss “efficiency” in the context of rationing goods to those buyers who value them most highly. This concept will be explored further in the following chapter.

EXAMPLE 2: The Market for Unskilled Labour
W L Wage paid to unskilled workers S D \$4 500 Eq’m w/o price controls Now we switch gears and look at the effects of a price floor. We illustrate this concept using the common textbook example – the minimum wage. This may be the first time students have seen a supply-demand diagram of the labour market. It might be useful to note that the “price” of labour is more commonly known as the wage, which we measure on the vertical axis of our supply-demand diagram. Along the horizontal axis, we measure the quantity of labour (number of workers). The demand for unskilled labour comes from firms. The supply comes from workers. We focus on unskilled labour because the minimum wage is not relevant for higher skilled, higher wage workers. Quantity of unskilled workers

How Price Floors Affect Market Outcomes
A price floor below the eq’m price is not binding – it has no effect on the market outcome. W L S D \$4 500 Price floor \$3 Some students see this and wonder why the \$3 price floor does not cause a shortage. After all, at a wage of \$3, the quantity of unskilled workers that firms wish to hire exceeds the quantity of unskilled workers that are looking for jobs. But the minimum wage law does not stop the wage from rising above \$3. So, in response to this shortage, the wage will rise until the shortage evaporates – which occurs at the equilibrium wage of \$4. The equilibrium wage is perfectly legal when the price floor (i.e. minimum wage) is below it.

How Price Floors Affect Market Outcomes
labour surplus The eq’m wage (\$4) is below the floor and therefore illegal. The floor is a binding constraint on the wage, and causes a surplus (i.e., unemployment). W L S Price floor \$5 D 400 550 \$4 Now, the minimum wage exceeds the equilibrium wage. The equilibrium wage (or any wage below \$5) is illegal. In this case, the actual wage will be \$5. It will not be lower, because any lower wage is illegal. It will not be higher, because at any higher wage, the surplus would be even greater. The actual number of unskilled workers with jobs equals want jobs, but firms are only willing to hire 400, leaving a surplus (i.e. unemployment) of 150 workers. A surplus of anything – especially labour – represents wasted resources.

The Minimum Wage Min wage laws do not affect highly skilled workers.
They do affect teen workers. Studies: A 10% increase in the min wage raises teen unemployment by 1-3%. unemployment W L S Min. wage \$5 D 400 550 \$4

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 1: Price floors & ceilings
Q P S The market for hotel rooms D Determine effects of: A. \$90 price ceiling B. \$90 price floor C. \$120 price floor 12

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 1: A. \$90 price ceiling
Q P S The market for hotel rooms D The price falls to \$90. Buyers demand 120 rooms, sellers supply 90, leaving a shortage. Price ceiling shortage = 30 13

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 1: B. \$90 price floor
Q P S The market for hotel rooms D Eq’m price is above the floor, so floor is not binding. P = \$100, Q = 100 rooms. Price floor 14

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 1: C. \$120 price floor
Q P S The market for hotel rooms D The price rises to \$120. Buyers demand 60 rooms, sellers supply 120, causing a surplus. surplus = 60 Price floor 15

Evaluating Price Controls
Recall one of the Ten Principles: Markets are usually a good way to organize economic activity. Prices are the signals that guide the allocation of society’s resources. This allocation is altered when policymakers restrict prices. Price controls are often intended to help the poor, but they often hurt more than help them: The minimum wage can cause job losses. Rent control can reduce the quantity and quality of affordable housing. It might be worth reminding students that our analysis has been in the context of a world without market failures. Subsequent chapters (except in the macro split) will introduce situations in which government intervention in the price system can improve on the private market outcome. However, even in such cases, the appropriate policy is usually something other than a direct price control. The 4th edition adds an excellent new In the News box with an article on rent control from The Economist. Please encourage your students to check it out.

Taxes The gov’t levies taxes on many goods & services to raise revenue to pay for national defense, public schools, etc. The gov’t can make buyers or sellers pay the tax. The tax can be a percentage of the good’s price, or a specific amount for each unit sold. For simplicity, we analyze per-unit taxes only.

EXAMPLE 3: The Market for Pizza
Eq’m w/o tax P Q D1 S1 \$10.00 500

Effects of a \$1.50 per unit tax on buyers

The Incidence of a Tax: how the burden of a tax is shared among market participants P Q Because of the tax, buyers pay \$1.00 more, sellers get \$0.50 less. D1 S1 \$11.00 PB = D2 Tax 430 \$10.00 500 \$9.50 PS =

Effects of a \$1.50 per unit tax on sellers
A Tax on Sellers A tax on sellers shifts the S curve up by the amount of the tax. Effects of a \$1.50 per unit tax on sellers P Q S2 D1 S1 \$11.00 PB = Tax 430 \$10.00 500 \$9.50 PS = The price buyers pay rises, the price sellers receive falls, eq’m Q falls. The government makes sellers pay a \$1.50 on each pizza they sell. The new, red supply curve reflects sellers’ supply as a function of the after-tax price. Here’s a way to think about the shift that students might find helpful: Making sellers pay a \$1.50 tax on each unit they sell is equivalent to a \$1.50 increase in the cost of producing each pizza. As students learned in chapter 4, anything that increases production costs causes the S curve to shift up: In order for sellers to be willing to supply the same quantity as before, they must receive a higher price to compensate them for the increase in their costs.

The Outcome Is the Same in Both Cases!

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 2: Effects of a tax
Q P S The market for hotel rooms D Suppose gov’t imposes a tax on buyers of \$30 per room. Find new Q, PB, PS, and incidence of tax. 23

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 2: Answers
Q P S The market for hotel rooms D Q = 80 PB = \$110 PB = Tax PS = \$80 PS = Incidence buyers: \$10 sellers: \$20 24

Elasticity and Tax Incidence
CASE 1: Supply is more elastic than demand P Q In this case, buyers bear most of the burden of the tax. D PB S Buyers’ share of tax burden Tax Price if no tax Sellers’ share of tax burden PS We have just seen that tax incidence is not affected by whether the government makes buyers or sellers pay the tax. So what, then, does determine tax incidence? Turns out it’s elasticity – specifically, the price elasticities of supply and demand. There are two cases: 1) supply is more price-elastic than demand (this slide), and 2) demand is more price-elastic than supply (next slide). When supply is more price-elastic than demand, sellers are relatively more responsive to changes in price, and the supply curve is less steep than the demand curve. Buyers have relatively fewer alternatives, so they have to “eat” most of the price increase caused by the imposition of the tax.

Elasticity and Tax Incidence
CASE 2: Demand is more elastic than supply P Q In this case, sellers bear most of the burden of the tax. S D Buyers’ share of tax burden PB Tax Price if no tax Sellers’ share of tax burden PS The size of the tax is the same in this diagram as in the one on the preceding slide. When demand is more price-elastic than supply, buyers are relatively more price-sensitive, and the demand curve is less steep than the supply curve. Buyers have relatively more alternatives, so they can avoid most of the tax. Sellers are less flexible, so they have to “eat” a greater share of the price increase caused by the tax.

Elasticity and Tax Incidence
If buyers’ price elasticity > sellers’ price elasticity, buyers can more easily leave the market when the tax is imposed, so buyers will bear a smaller share of the burden of the tax than sellers. If sellers’ price elasticity > buyers’ price elasticity, the reverse is true.

CASE STUDY: Who Pays the Luxury Tax?
1990: Congress adopted a luxury tax on yachts, private airplanes, furs, expensive cars, etc. Goal of the tax: to raise revenue from those who could most easily afford to pay – wealthy consumers. But who really pays this tax? This case study comes right from the book. If you’re pressed for time, you can delete it and let students read it on their own. It does not introduce any new concepts, and most students do not find it difficult.

CASE STUDY: Who Pays the Luxury Tax?
The market for yachts Demand is price-elastic. P Q S In the short run, supply is inelastic. D Buyers’ share of tax burden PB Tax Hence, companies that build yachts pay most of the tax. Sellers’ share of tax burden PS Demand for yachts (and other luxury items) is price-elastic: if the price of yachts rises, rich consumers can easily avoid the tax by spending their millions on some other luxury item. Supply of yachts is less elastic, especially in the short run. It is difficult for the companies that build yachts to re-tool their factories and reeducate their workers to produce some other product. Hence, companies that build yachts (and companies that sell other luxury items) pay most of the tax, and the rich pay relatively little of it.

CONCLUSION: Government Policies and the Allocation of Resources
Each of the policies in this chapter affects the allocation of society’s resources. Example 1: a tax on pizza reduces the eq’m quantity of pizza. Since the economy is producing fewer pizzas, some resources (workers, ovens, cheese) will become available to other industries. Example 2: a binding minimum wage causes a surplus of workers, a waste of resources. So, it’s important for policymakers to apply such policies very carefully. Recall one of the 10 principles from chapter 1: Markets are usually a good way to organize economic activity. This means that, in absence of market failures (which we will learn more about in later chapters), the allocation of resources resulting from the free market equilibrium is optimal. Hence, government policies which alter this allocation tend to make the economy worse off. When we study market failures later, we will see that government policies can – in principle – improve on the market’s allocation of resources, and make society better off. First, though, we need to learn how to measure the impact of government policies like taxes on society’s well-being, as well as define what, exactly, we mean by “well-being.” This field of study, called “welfare economics,” is the topic of the next three chapters.

CHAPTER SUMMARY A price ceiling is a legal maximum on the price of a good. An example is rent control. If the price ceiling is below the eq’m price, it is binding and causes a shortage. A price floor is a legal minimum on the price of a good. An example is the minimum wage. If the price floor is above the eq’m price, it is binding and causes a surplus. The labour surplus caused by the minimum wage is unemployment.

CHAPTER SUMMARY A tax on a good places a wedge between the price buyers pay and the price sellers receive, and causes the eq’m quantity to fall, whether the tax is imposed on buyers or sellers. The incidence of a tax is the division of the burden of the tax between buyers and sellers, and does not depend on whether the tax is imposed on buyers or sellers. The incidence of the tax depends on the price elasticities of supply and demand.

End: Chapter 6