Income Elasticity

Elasticity – consumers’ changing demand for a good – comes in two flavors. When prices go up, we consume less. But we also consume less when we’re broke, which is what’s happening today in the auto market. Gas prices are dropping like a stone in a pond, but as James Hamilton notes, we’re not buying SUVs:

Rising gasoline prices earlier this year unquestionably contributed to the slide of domestic autos in general and SUVs in particular in the spring and summer, and the lost income and jobs that resulted may have been the factor that tipped the economic slowdown into a recession. But national losses in jobs, income, and consumer confidence are now exerting a separate influence of their own, as consumers cut back wherever they can. Domestic automakers take the brunt of that second, more damaging blow as well.