How To Calculate Excess Capacity In Monopolistic Competition

How To Calculate Excess Capacity In Monopolistic Competition

Monopolistic competition is a market structure characterized by a large number of firms producing differentiated products with some degree of market power. In monopolistically competitive markets, firms often operate with excess capacity, meaning they produce below their optimal output level. Understanding how to calculate excess capacity is crucial for analyzing firm behavior, market dynamics, and welfare implications. In this article, we delve into the concept of excess capacity in monopolistic competition and provide a step-by-step guide on how to calculate it.

Understanding Excess Capacity

Excess capacity refers to the situation where a firm produces less output than what is required to minimize average total cost (ATC) and achieve productive efficiency. In monopolistically competitive markets, firms often operate with excess capacity due to the presence of product differentiation and imperfect competition. Unlike perfectly competitive firms that operate at the minimum point of their long-run average cost curve, monopolistically competitive firms produce less output than the efficient scale, resulting in excess capacity.

Calculating Excess Capacity

To calculate excess capacity in monopolistic competition, we need to compare the firm’s actual output level with its efficient scale of production, which corresponds to the minimum point of its long-run average cost (LRAC) curve.

Step 1: Determine the Firm’s Long-Run Average Cost (LRAC) Curve:

The LRAC curve represents the firm’s minimum average cost of production at each level of output in the long run. It is derived from the firm’s production function and reflects the optimal combination of inputs required to produce a given level of output. The minimum point of the LRAC curve corresponds to the efficient scale of production, where the firm operates at the lowest possible average cost.

Step 2: Identify the Firm’s Actual Output Level:

Next, determine the firm’s actual output level, which represents the quantity of goods or services produced by the firm in the current market environment. This can be obtained from the firm’s production and sales data or market reports.

Step 3: Calculate the Excess Capacity:

To calculate excess capacity, compare the firm’s actual output level with its efficient scale of production as indicated by the minimum point of the LRAC curve. Excess capacity is the difference between the firm’s efficient scale and its actual output level.

Excess Capacity = Efficient Scale – Actual Output


Suppose a monopolistically competitive firm faces a downward-sloping demand curve and operates in a market where it faces some degree of market power. The firm’s LRAC curve is U-shaped, indicating economies of scale at low levels of output and diseconomies of scale at high levels of output.

Let’s say the minimum point of the firm’s LRAC curve corresponds to an output level of 1,000 units, where the average cost is minimized. However, due to product differentiation and monopolistic competition, the firm chooses to produce only 800 units of output.

Excess Capacity = 1,000 units (Efficient Scale) – 800 units (Actual Output)
Excess Capacity = 200 units


In this example, the firm is operating with excess capacity of 200 units, meaning it could increase its production by 200 units without experiencing an increase in average cost. Operating with excess capacity suggests that the firm is not fully utilizing its production capacity and may be sacrificing potential cost savings and efficiency gains.

Implications of Excess Capacity

Excess capacity in monopolistic competition has several implications for firm behavior, market outcomes, and welfare:

Pricing Behavior

Firms with excess capacity may engage in strategic pricing behavior, such as price discrimination or non-price competition, to differentiate their products and attract customers.

Allocative Efficiency

Excess capacity leads to a suboptimal allocation of resources, as firms are not producing at the level that minimizes average cost. This results in a loss of allocative efficiency and potential welfare losses.

Dynamic Efficiency

Excess capacity may inhibit investment in new technology, innovation, and capital accumulation, leading to lower levels of dynamic efficiency and economic growth over time.

Market Dynamics

Excess capacity contributes to market instability and can exacerbate price volatility, especially in industries with high fixed costs and low marginal costs.

Calculating excess capacity in monopolistic competition provides insights into firm behavior, market structure, and welfare implications. By comparing the firm’s actual output level with its efficient scale of production, we can identify the extent to which firms operate with excess capacity and its impact on resource allocation and market outcomes. Analyzing excess capacity helps policymakers, economists, and business leaders understand the dynamics of monopolistically competitive markets and formulate strategies to enhance efficiency and promote economic welfare.