Income Effect: Definition and Real Life Examples

What Is the Income Effect?

Have you ever wondered why people tend to buy more expensive things when they have a higher income? This is because of a phenomenon called the income effect. The income effect is defined as the change in a consumer’s consumption patterns due to a change in their income. In this blog post, we will provide you with a more in-depth understanding of the income effect, its meaning, and examples.

Effects on Consumer Behavior

The income effect plays a significant role in the behavior of consumers, and it is important to recognize for marketers and economists alike. The income effect can either be positive or negative, depending on the type of goods and services being offered. For normal goods, a positive income effect takes place when a person’s income increases, and their demand for that particular good increases as well. For example, if a person’s salary is increased, they may choose to upgrade their car to a more expensive model.

On the other hand, an inferior good has a negative income effect, where the demand for it decreases as a person’s income increases. An example of an inferior good is instant ramen noodles. As a person starts to earn more, they may shift to healthier and more expensive food options, making the demand for instant noodles decrease.

Another factor that affects the income effect is the availability of substitutes. If there are few or no substitutes to a particular product, the income effect may be stronger. For example, if a person’s income increases, they may choose to purchase a more expensive brand of medication as there are no substitutes available. Conversely, if there are many substitutes available, such as in the case of clothing or food, the income effect may be less strong, and the person may choose to purchase cheaper alternatives.

Income Effect Examples

The income effect also plays a role in the determination of price elasticity of demand. When income increases, the demand for goods with elastic demand (i.e., goods that can be easily substituted) will increase while the demand for goods with inelastic demand (i.e., goods that cannot be substituted) will decrease. Take for example, gasoline. As a person’s income increases, they may be able to afford a more fuel-efficient car, reducing their demand for gasoline. This makes gasoline an elastic good. On the other hand, healthcare is an inelastic good. As income increases, the demand for healthcare may not decrease because healthcare is a necessity and there may be no substitutes available.


In conclusion, the income effect is the change in consumption patterns of a consumer when their income changes. It can be positive for normal goods (where demand increases with income) or negative for inferior goods (where demand decreases with income). The availability of substitutes and the elasticity of demand are also factors that affect the income effect. Understanding the income effect is essential for marketers and economists to recognize the consumer behavior patterns accurately and plan their strategies accordingly. By considering the income effect, businesses can anticipate how their products may sell and come up with a proper marketing strategy to maximize their profits.

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