A monopolistic competitors demand curve is

Monopolistic competition is a market structure defined by free entry and exit, like competition, and differentiated products, like monopoly. Differentiated products provide each firm with some market power. Advertising and marketing of each individual product provide uniqueness that causes the demand curve of each good to be downward sloping. Free entry indicates that each firm competes with other firms and profits are equal to zero on long run equilibrium. If a monopolistically competitive firm is earning positive economic profits, entry will occur until economic profits are equal to zero.

The demand curve of a monopolistically competitive firm is downward sloping, indicating that the firm has a degree of market power. Market power derives from product differentiation, since each firm produces a different product. Each good has many close substitutes, so market power is limited: if the price is increased too much, consumers will shift to competitors’ products.

A monopolistic competitors demand curve is
Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Monopolistic Competition in the Short Run and Long Run

Short and long run equilibria for the monopolistically competitive firm are shown in Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\). The demand curve facing the firm is downward sloping, but relatively elastic due to the availability of close substitutes. The short run equilibrium appears in the left hand panel, and is nearly identical to the monopoly graph. The only difference is that for a monopolistically competitive firm, the demand is relatively elastic, or flat. Otherwise, the short run profit-maximizing solution is the same as a monopoly. The firm sets marginal revenue equal to marginal cost, produces output level \(q^*_{SR}\) and charges price \(P_{SR}\). The profit level is shown by the shaded rectangle \(π\).

The long run equilibrium is shown in the right hand panel. Entry of other firms occurs until profits are equal to zero; total revenues are equal to total costs. Thus, the demand curve is tangent to the average cost curve at the optimal long run quantity, \(q^*_{LR}\). The long run profit-maximizing quantity is found where marginal revenue equals marginal cost, which also occurs at \(q^*_{LR}\).

There are two sources of inefficiency in monopolistic competition. First, dead weight loss \((DWL)\) due to monopoly power: price is higher than marginal cost \((P > MC)\). Second, excess capacity: the equilibrium quantity is smaller than the lowest cost quantity at the minimum point on the average cost curve \((q^*_{LR} < q_{minAC})\). These two sources of inefficiency can be seen in Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\).

A monopolistic competitors demand curve is
Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Comparison of Efficiency for Competition and Monopolistic Competition

First, there is dead weight loss \((DWL)\) due to market power: the price is higher than marginal cost in long run equilibrium. In the right hand panel of Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\), the price at the long run equilibrium quantity is \(P_{LR}\), and marginal cost is lower: \(P_{LR} > MC\). This causes dead weight loss to society, since the competitive equilibrium would be at a larger quantity where \(P = MC\). Total dead weight loss is the shaded area beneath the demand curve and above the \(MC\) curve in figure \(\PageIndex{2}\).

The second source of inefficiency associated with monopolistic competition is excess capacity. This can also be seen in the right hand panel of Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\), where the long run equilibrium quantity is lower than the quantity where average costs are lowest \((q_{minAC})\). Therefore, the firm could produce at a lower cost by increasing output to the level where average costs are minimized.

Given these two inefficiencies associated with monopolistic competition, some individuals and groups have called for government intervention. Regulation could be used to reduce or eliminate the inefficiencies by removing product differentiation. This would result in a single product instead of a large number of close substitutes.

Regulation is probably not a good solution to the inefficiencies of monopolistic competition, for two reasons. First, the market power of a typical firm in most monopolistically competitive industries is small. Each monopolistically competitive industry has many firms that produce sufficiently substitutable products to provide enough competition to result in relatively low levels of market power. If the firms have small levels of market power, then the deadweight loss and excess capacity inefficiencies are likely to be small.

Second, the benefit provided by monopolistic competition is product diversity. The gain from product diversity can be large, as consumers are willing to pay for different characteristics and qualities. Therefore, the gain from product diversity is likely to outweigh the costs of inefficiency. Evidence for this claim can be seen in market-based economies, where there is a huge amount of product diversity.

The next chapter will introduce and discuss oligopoly: strategic interactions between firms!

A type of market structure where companies in an industry produce similar but differentiated products

Monopolistic competition is a type of market structure where many companies are present in an industry, and they produce similar but differentiated products. None of the companies enjoy a monopoly, and each company operates independently without regard to the actions of other companies. The market structure is a form of imperfect competition.

A monopolistic competitors demand curve is

The characteristics of monopolistic competition include the following:

  • The presence of many companies
  • Each company produces similar but differentiated products
  • Companies are not price takers
  • Free entry and exit in the industry
  • Companies compete based on product quality, price, and how the product is marketed

Companies in a monopolistic competition make economic profits in the short run, but in the long run, they make zero economic profit. The latter is also a result of the freedom of entry and exit in the industry. Economic profits that exist in the short run attract new entries, which eventually lead to increased competition, lower prices, and high output.

Such a scenario inevitably eliminates economic profit and gradually leads to economic losses in the short run. The freedom to exit due to continued economic losses leads to an increase in prices and profits, which eliminates economic losses.

In addition, companies in a monopolistic market structure are productively and allocatively inefficient as they operate with existing excess capacity. Because of the large number of companies, each player keeps a small market share and is unable to influence the product price. Therefore, collusion between companies is impossible.

In addition, monopolistic competition thrives on innovation and variety. Companies must continuously invest in product development and advertising and increase the variety of their products to appeal to their target markets. Competition with other companies is thus based on quality, price, and marketing.

Quality entails product design and service. Companies able to increase the quality of their products are, therefore, able to charge a higher price and vice versa. Marketing refers to different types of advertising and packaging that can be used on the product to increase awareness and appeal.

Industries Exhibiting Features of Monopolistic Competition

Examples of industries in monopolistic competition include the following:

  • Clothing and apparel
  • Sportswear products
  • Restaurants
  • Hairdressers
  • PC manufacturers
  • Television services

Short-Run Decisions on Output and Price

The short-run equilibrium under monopolistic competition is illustrated in the diagram below:

A monopolistic competitors demand curve is

Profits are maximized where marginal revenue (MR) is equal to marginal cost (MC). The point determines the company’s equilibrium output. The price is determined at a point where the imaginary line from the equilibrium output passes through the point of intersection of the MR, and MC curves and meets the average revenue (AR) curve, which is also the demand curve.

Total profit is represented by the cyan-colored rectangle in the diagram above. It is determined by the equilibrium output multiplied by the difference between AR and the average total cost (ATC). Companies in monopolistic competition determine their price and output decisions in the short run, just like companies in a monopoly.

Companies in monopolistic competition can also incur economic losses in the short run, as illustrated below. They still produce equilibrium output at a point where MR equals MC in which losses are minimized. The cyan-colored rectangle shows the economic loss incurred.

A monopolistic competitors demand curve is

Long-Run Decisions on Output and Price

In the long run, companies in monopolistic competition still produce at a level where marginal cost and marginal revenue are equal. However, the demand curve will have shifted to the left due to other companies entering the market. The shift in the demand curve is a result of reduced demand for an individual company’s products due to increased competition.

Such an action reduces economic profits, depending on the magnitude of the entry of new players. Individual companies will no longer be able to sell their products at above-average cost.

A monopolistic competitors demand curve is

Companies in monopolistic competition will earn zero economic profit in the long run. At this stage, there is no incentive for new entrants in the industry.

Monopolistic Competition vs. Perfect Competition

Companies in monopolistic competition produce differentiated products and compete mainly on non-price competition. The demand curves in individual companies for monopolistic competition are downward sloping, whereas perfect competition demonstrates a perfectly elastic demand schedule.

However, there are two other principal differences worth mentioning – excess capacity and mark-up. Companies in monopolistic competition operate with excess capacity, as they do not produce at an efficient scale, i.e., at the lowest ATC. Production at the lowest possible cost is only completed by companies in perfect competition.

Mark-up is the difference between price and marginal cost. There is no mark-up in a perfect competition structure because the price is equal to marginal cost. However, monopolistic competition comes with a product mark-up, as the price is always greater than the marginal cost.

Inefficiencies in Monopolistic Competition

  • The equilibrium output at the profit maximization level (MR = MC) for monopolistic competition means consumers pay more since the price is greater than marginal revenue.
  • As indicated above, monopolistic competitive companies operate with excess capacity. They do not operate at the minimum ATC in the long run. Production capacity is not at full capacity, resulting in idle resources.
  • Monopolistic competitive companies waste resources on selling costs, i.e., advertising and marketing to promote their products. Such costs can be utilized in production to reduce production costs and possibly lower product prices.
  • Since companies do not operate at excess capacity, it leads to unemployment and social despondency in society.
  • Inefficient companies continue to exist under monopolistic competition, as opposed to exiting, which is associated with companies under perfect competition.
  • Another scope of inefficiency for monopolistic competitive markets stems from the fact that the marginal cost is less than the price in the long run.
  • Monopolistic competitive market structures are also allocatively inefficient. Their prices are higher than the marginal cost.

Limitations of Monopolistic Competition Market Structure

  • Companies with superior brands and high-quality products will consistently make economic profits in the real world.
  • Companies entering the market will take a long time to catch up, and their products will not match those of the established companies for their products to be considered close substitutes. New companies are likely to face barriers to entry because of strong brand differentiation and brand loyalty.

Additional Resources

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Monopolistic Competition. To keep learning and developing your knowledge of financial analysis, we highly recommend the additional resources below: