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Economic Income

Economic Income refers to the measure of an individual’s or a business entity’s earning capacity in a given period, taking into consideration both cash and non-cash factors. It is derived from the concept of income, which generally refers to the money received or generated from various sources, such as wages, investments, or business activities. However, economic income delves deeper by accounting for the effects of inflation, opportunity cost, and changes in the value of assets.


Economic income provides a comprehensive understanding of an entity’s financial position, as it captures not only the actual inflow of funds but also the changes in wealth or value over a specific timeframe. This concept recognizes that profits or gains are not solely influenced by monetary transactions, but also by fluctuations in the market and the value of an entity’s assets.

To calculate economic income, one must consider all relevant factors that contribute to changes in an individual’s wealth or a company’s value. These factors include cash flows, market value changes of assets and liabilities, non-cash expenses and revenues, inflationary effects on purchasing power, opportunity costs, and changes in general economic conditions. By incorporating these elements, economic income provides a more accurate representation of an entity’s financial performance.

In contrast to accounting income, which only considers cash inflows and outflows, economic income takes into account changes in the value of assets and liabilities. For example, an individual or a business may experience an increase in economic income due to an appreciated investment portfolio or an appreciation in the value of owned real estate. These non-cash gains contribute to overall economic income, even if no cash has been realized.

Furthermore, economic income considers the impact of inflation on an entity’s purchasing power. By adjusting for changes in the general price level of goods and services, economic income provides a more accurate assessment of a business’s ability to maintain or increase its real wealth. It allows for better decision-making, as it reveals the true economic status and performance of an entity, rather than being solely reliant on financial statements based on accounting standards.

Opportunity cost is another crucial aspect encompassed within the concept of economic income. It recognizes that choosing one investment opportunity often results in the foregone benefits of another potential option. By considering the costs associated with missed alternatives, economic income accounts for the full implications of financial decisions and trade-offs an entity faces.

Overall, economic income serves as a reliable measure to understand the economic standing of an individual or a business entity, going beyond the limitations of accounting income. It provides a broader picture of financial performance by accounting for non-cash gains, changes in the value of assets and liabilities, the impact of inflation, and opportunity costs. This comprehensive evaluation enables better decision-making, as it reflects the true economic consequences of financial actions.