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Inferior Good

An inferior good, within the realm of economics, refers to a type of good or service whose demand decreases as consumer income rises. While the term inferior might suggest a lack of quality, it is important to note that the concept of inferiority in this context is not related to the actual quality or desirability of the good itself. Rather, it reflects a change in consumer choices and preferences due to changing income levels.


Unlike normal goods, which exhibit a positive relationship between consumer income and demand, inferior goods experience an inverse relationship. As consumers’ income increases, they tend to allocate a lower proportion of their budget to purchasing these goods. However, it is crucial to emphasize that the categorization of a good as inferior is relative to the income level of the individuals or target market being considered. What may be an inferior good for one segment of the population could be a normal good for another.

Characteristics of Inferior Goods:

  1. Income Elasticity: Inferior goods are typically associated with negative income elasticity of demand. This means that as incomes rise, the percentage change in demand for inferior goods will be negative.
  2. Substitutability: Inferior goods often have substitute goods that consumers may choose instead as their income increases. This availability of substitute goods contributes to the negative relationship between consumer income and demand for inferior goods.
  3. Consumption Patterns: Inferior goods are often characterized by being basic necessities or low-end alternatives. Examples include generic store-brand products, used goods, public transportation, and fast food.
  4. Consumer Behavior: The demand for inferior goods often arises from consumers seeking to economize or save money in their purchasing decisions. As incomes increase, consumers tend to shift their preference towards higher-quality alternatives.

Examples of Inferior Goods:

  1. Generic Brands: As consumer income increases, they may switch from purchasing generic store-brand products to higher-priced, brand-name items.
  2. Public Transportation: Individuals with higher incomes may choose to purchase a private vehicle rather than relying on public transportation options.
  3. Fast Food: As disposable income rises, some consumers may opt for dining at higher-end restaurants, favoring healthier and more gourmet options.

Importance in Pricing and Marketing:

Understanding the concept of inferior goods is of great significance to businesses in terms of price positioning and marketing strategies. It enables companies to tailor their offerings to specific income segments and adjust their marketing communications accordingly. For example, companies that provide lower-cost alternatives or budget-friendly products can target consumers with lower income levels by emphasizing the affordability and value of their goods. Additionally, businesses can develop pricing strategies that consider the income elasticity of demand for their products, especially when launching new offerings or planning product line expansions.


While the concept of inferior goods provides insights into consumer behavior and demand patterns, it is important to note that categorizing goods as inferior or normal is not always straightforward. Consumer preferences can vary significantly, and the income elasticity of demand may not hold true in all cases. Additionally, external factors such as changing market conditions, advertising, and social influences can significantly impact consumer choices, further complicating the categorization of goods.

In conclusion, the concept of inferior goods provides a lens through which economists and businesses can analyze consumer behavior and demand patterns. It elucidates the dynamic relationship between consumer income and the choices they make in their purchasing decisions. By understanding the characteristics and implications of inferior goods, businesses can develop effective strategies to cater to specific income segments and optimize marketing efforts to meet consumer needs.