Deadweight Loss


A deadweight loss, also known as excess burden or allocative inefficiency, is a loss of economic efficiency that can occur when equilibrium for a good or a service is not achieved. That can be caused by monopoly pricing in the case of artificial scarcity, an externality, a tax or subsidy, or a binding price ceiling or price floor such as a minimum wage.

Deadweight Loss

What is ‘Deadweight Loss’

A deadweight loss is a cost to society created by market inefficiency. Mainly used in economics, deadweight loss can be applied to any deficiency caused by an inefficient allocation of resources. Price ceilings, such as price controls and rent controls; price floors, such as minimum wage and living wage laws; and taxation are all said to create deadweight losses.

Explaining ‘Deadweight Loss’

Deadweight loss occurs when supply and demand are not in equilibrium. When consumers do not feel the price of a good or service is justified when compared to the perceived utility, they are less likely to purchase the item. With the reduced level of trade, the allocation of resources may become inefficient, which can lead to a reduction in overall welfare within a society.

Examples of Deadweight Losses

Minimum wage and living wage laws can create a deadweight loss by causing employers to overpay for employees and preventing low-skilled workers from securing jobs. Price ceilings and rent controls can also create deadweight losses by discouraging production and decreasing the supply of goods, services or housing below what consumers truly demand. Consumers experience shortages and producers earn less than they would otherwise.

Market Inefficiency

Market inefficiency occurs when goods within the market are either overvalued or undervalued. While certain members of society may benefit from the imbalance, others suffer consequences in regards to their welfare.

Further Reading