Demand Schedule Explained With Real Life Example

A cow grazes on grass at the Stemple Creek Ranch on April 24, 2014 in Tomales, California. Extreme weather conditions across the country have reduced the number of cattle coming to market and have sent the wholesale price of U.S. beef to record highs.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The demand schedule shows exactly how many units of a good or service will be bought at each price. Using this data, economists and industry analysts can create a demand curve. Both the curve and the schedule describe the relationship between a good's price and the quantity demanded of that good.

The law of demand guides this relationship. It states that the quantity demanded will drop as the price rises, ceteris paribus or "all other things being equal." Those other things that must remain equal are the determinants of demand: the price of related goods, income, tastes, and expectations. There's an additional determinant for aggregate demand: the number of potential buyers in the market.

Keep reading to learn more about demand schedules, including how to describe demand schedules in terms of price elasticity, and an example of how you can use a demand schedule to project how much beef a family would buy over the course of a year.

The Demand Schedule Reveals Price Elasticity

Demand schedules allow economists to predict the quantity demanded at given prices. That relationship between price and demand is known as the elasticity. By studying the numbers in a demand schedule, one can quantify the elasticity of a good or service.

Price elasticity can be conveyed as a number that tells you, on average, how much the quantity demanded will react to the price.

If the price elasticity number is high, then it's called elastic demand. Like a stretchy rubber band, the quantity demanded moves easily with a little change in prices. An example of this in everyday life could be frozen pizzas. If the price of a frozen pizza drops just 25%, you might buy three times as much as you normally would on your next grocery trip. You know you'll use the extra pizzas eventually, and you can put them in the freezer until you need them.

Inelastic demand is the opposite. Here, a price drop won't stimulate the quantities purchased. An example of inelastic demand can be found at the gas pump. You can't significantly change the amount of driving you need to do each week, even if the price of gas goes up. Similarly, you probably won't drive twice as much in a week just because gas prices fell by 50%. ​

Demand Schedule: Beef

Here's a real-life example using ground beef. The average demand elasticity for beef calculated by the USDA is -0.699. This means that as the price rises 1.0%, the quantity demanded falls 0.699%.

Beef demand is fairly inelastic because the quantity demanded falls at a slower rate than the rate of the price hike.

In part because of two droughts in a row, the price of ground beef rose dramatically in 2014. The first drought in 2012 drove up food prices and forced cattle ranchers to slaughter their cows to prevent them from starving. In 2014, another drought drove grain prices up again. Ranchers hadn't yet rebuilt their herds, so prices for beef simply rose. Climate change is just one of the factors of rising food prices. When oil prices rise, as they did in 2013 and 2014, it can be another reason why food prices are so high. 

For this example, let's say a family of four bought 10 pounds of ground beef in January to make hamburgers, meatloaf, and chili. All other things being equal, here's the demand schedule showing how they would reduce the quantity bought by 0.699% for every 1.0% the price rose.

Month in 2014 Price/lb. Quantity (in lbs.)
Jan $3.467 10.000
Feb $3.555 9.822
Mar $3.698 9.546
Apr $3.808 9.347
May $3.856 9.265
Jun $3.880 9.225
Jul $3.884 9.219
Aug $4.013 9.005
Sep $4.096 8.874
Oct $4.154 8.786

Although prices rose by nearly 20%, the quantity bought fell by less than 13%. That's because the demand for ground beef is fairly inelastic. These quantities assume all other determinants of demand remain the same.

Changing Determinants of Demand

If the determinants of demand other than the price change, it shifts the entire demand curve. That's because a whole new demand schedule needs to be created to show the new relationship between price and quantity. The demand curve shifts for a particular good or service when there are changes not only in price, but also in buyers’ incomes, trends and tastes, future expectations, and prices of alternative choices.

Article Sources

  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "Determinants of Demand and Consumption." Accessed March 26, 2020.

  2. Nasdaq. "Elasticity of Demand." Accessed March 26, 2020.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Using Gasoline Data to Explain Inelasticity." Accessed March 26, 2020.

  4. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Services. "Demand Elasticities From Literature." Set "Step 1: Country" to "United States." Set "Step 2: Commodity" to "Beef." Set "Step 3: Cross Commodity" to "Beef." Set "Step 4: Select View" to "List elasticity by commodity." View Page 2. Accessed March 26, 2020.

  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Ground Beef, 100% Beef, Per lb. (453.6 gm) in U.S. City Average, Average Price, Not Seasonally Adjusted." Accessed March 26.

  6. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "Do Rises in Oil Prices Mean Rises in Food Prices?" Accessed March 26, 2020.

  7. Energy Information Administration. "Spot Prices for Crude Oil and Petroleum Products." Accessed March 26, 2020.