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In macroeconomics, aggregate demand (AD) is the total demand for final goods and services in the economy (Y) at a given time and price level[1]. It is the amount of goods and services in the economy that will be purchased at all possible price levels. [2]This is the demand for the gross domestic product of a country when inventory levels are static. It is often called effective demand, though at other times this term is distinguished.

It is often cited that the aggregate demand curve is downward sloping because at lower price levels a greater quantity is demanded. While this is correct at the microeconomic, single good level, at the aggregate level this is incorrect. The aggregate demand curve is in fact downward sloping as a result of three distinct effects; Pigou's wealth effect, the Keynes' interest rate effect and the Mundell-Fleming exchange-rate effect.



An aggregate demand curve is the sum of individual demand curves for different sectors of the economy. The aggregate demand is usually described as a linear sum of four separable demand sources.[3]

 Yd = C + I + G + (X-M) \


  •  C \ is consumption = ac + bc(YT),
  •  I \ is Investment,
  •  G \ is Government spending,
  •  NX = X - M \ is Net export,
    •  X \ is total exports, and
    •  M \ is total imports = am + bm(YT).

These four major parts, which can be stated in either 'nominal' or 'real' terms, are:

  • personal consumption expenditures (C) or "consumption," demand by households and unattached individuals; its determination is described by the consumption function. The consumption function is C= a + (mpc)(Y-T)
  • gross private domestic investment (I), such as spending by business firms on factory construction. This includes all private sector spending aimed as the production of some future consumable.
    • In Keynesian economics, not all of gross private domestic investment counts as part of aggregate demand. Much or most of the investment in inventories can be due to a short-fall in demand (unplanned inventory accumulation or "general over-production"). The Keynesian model forecasts a decrease in national output and income when there is unplanned investment. (Inventory accumulation would correspond to an excess supply of products; in the National Income and Product Accounts, it is treated as a purchase by its producer.) Thus, only the planned or intended or desired part of investment (Ip) is counted as part of aggregate demand. (So, I does not include the 'investment' in running up or depleting inventory levels.)
    • Investment is affected by the output and the interest rate (i). Consequently, we can write it as I(Y,i). Investment has positive relationship with the output and negative relationship with the interest rate. For example, when Y goes up, the investment will increase.
  • gross government investment and consumption expenditures (G).
  • net exports (NX and sometimes (X-M)), i.e., net demand by the rest of the world for the country's output.

In sum, for a single country at a given time, aggregate demand (D or AD) = C + Ip + G + (X-M).

These macrovariables are constructed from varying types of microvariables from the price of each, so these variables are denominated in (real or nominal) currency terms.

Two Concepts of the "Aggregate Demand Curve"

Understanding of the aggregate demand curve depends on whether it is examined based on changes in demand as income changes, or as price change.


Keynesian Cross

Keynesian cross diagram

In the "Keynesian cross diagram," a desired total spending (or aggregate expenditure, or "aggregate demand") curve (shown in blue) is drawn as a rising line since consumers will have a larger demand with a rise in disposable income, which increases with total national output. This increase is due to the positive relationship between consumption and consumers' disposable income in the consumption function. Aggregate demand may also rise due to increases in investment (due to the accelerator effect), while this rise is reduced if imports and tax revenues rise with income. Equilibrium in this diagram occurs where total demand, AD, equals the total amount of national output, Y, (which corresponds to total national income or production). Here, total demand equals total supply.

In the diagram, the equilibrium level of output and demand is determined where this desired spending curve intersects a line that represents the equality of total income and output (AD=Y). The intersection gives the equilibrium output, Y'.

The movement toward equilibrium is mostly via changes in inventories which induce changes in production and income. If current output exceeds the equilibrium, inventories accumulate, encouraging businesses to cut back on production, moving the economy toward equilibrium. Similarly, if the level of production is below the equilibrium, then inventories run down, encouraging an increase in production and thus a move toward equilibrium. This equilibration process occurs when the equilibrium is stable, i.e., when the AD line is less steep than the AD=Y line.

The equilibrium level of output determines the equilibrium level of employment in the model. (In a dynamic view, these are connected by Okun's Law.) There is no reason within the model why the equilibrium level of employment should correspond to full employment. Bringing in other considerations may imply this correspondence, though.

If any of the components of aggregate demand (C + Ip + G + NX) rises at each level of income, for example because business becomes more optimistic about future profitability, that shifts the entire AD line upward. This raises equilibrium income and output. Similarly, if the elements of AD fall, that shifts the line downward and lowers equilibrium output. (The AD=Y line does not shift under the definition used here).

Aggregate Demand-Aggregate Supply model

Sometimes, especially in textbooks, "aggregate demand" refers to an entire demand curve that looks like that in a typical Marshallian supply and demand diagram.


Thus, that we could refer to an "aggregate quantity demanded" (Yd = C + Ip + G + NX in real or inflation-corrected terms) at any given aggregate average price level (such as the GDP deflator), P.

In these diagrams, typically the Yd rises as the average price level (P) falls, as with the AD line in the diagram. The main theoretical reason for this is that if the nominal money supply (Ms) is constant, a falling P implies that the real money supply (Ms/P)rises, encouraging lower interest rates and higher spending. This is often called the "Keynes effect."

Carefully using ideas from the theory of supply and demand, aggregate supply can help determine the extent to which increases in aggregate demand lead to increases in real output or instead to increases in prices (inflation). In the diagram, an increase in any of the components of AD (at any given P) shifts the AD curve to the right. This increases both the level of real production (Y) and the average price level (P).

But different levels of economic activity imply different mixtures of output and price increases. As shown, with very low levels of real gross domestic product and thus large amounts of unemployed resources, most economists of the Keynesian school suggest that most of the change would be in the form of output and employment increases. As the economy gets close to potential output (Y*), we would see more and more price increases rather than output increases as AD increases.

Beyond Y*, this gets more intense, so that price increases dominate. Worse, output levels greater than Y* cannot be sustained for long. The AS is a short-term relationship here. If the economy persists in operating above potential, the AS curve will shift to the left, making the increases in real output transitory.

At low levels of Y, the world is more complicated. First, most modern industrial economies experience few if any falls in prices. So the AS curve is unlikely to shift down or to the right. Second, when they do suffer price cuts (as in Japan), it can lead to disastrous deflation.

Marxian critique

In Marxian economics, the equation of aggregate demand with expenditure on GDP or GNP is rejected as false, on conceptual and statistical grounds.

Firstly, GDP as a measure of value added excludes purchases of all intermediate goods and services used up in production. Even so, gross value added cannot be simply equated with final demand, insofar as it excludes transfers, property income and most trade in second-hand items.

Secondly, Gross Output from which GDP is derived by deducting intermediate expenditures, encompasses only those flows of income or expenditure regarded as related to production. Property income in the form of certain types of interest, transfers, land rents and realised capital gains from asset sales are excluded from gross output and GDP. Therefore, if the amount of property income (or transfers) increases, although GDP remains constant, national income receipts can nevertheless increase, and consequently aggregate demand can also increase.

Thirdly, Gross fixed capital formation measures only investment in productive fixed assets and real estate, and does not constitute total investment, which includes also purchases of financial assets.

Fourthly, GDP in principle excludes sales of second-hand assets except for those modified by some prior productive activity (e.g. reconditioned cars).

Finally, expenditure on GDP obviously disregards the creation of credit money by banks and governments, which boosts aggregate demand.

Thus, it is argued, the catch-all Keynesian notion of aggregate demand:

  • obscures the distribution of income between social classes with different propensities to save, consume and invest, and
  • fails to differentiate appropriately between different kinds of investment and consumption expenditure.

Restraining consumption and a higher savings rate does not automatically imply more investment, and lower investment does not automatically mean higher consumption expenditure. Funds may (as Keynes himself acknowledges) be hoarded.


A Post-Keynesian theory of aggregate demand emphasizes the role of debt, which it considers a fundamental component of Aggregate Demand.[4] Aggregate Demand is spending, be it on consumption, investment, or other categories. Spending is related to income via:

Income – Spending = Net Savings

Rearranging this yields:

Spending = Income + Net Change in Debt

In words: what you spend is what you earn, plus what you borrow: if you spend $110 and earned $100, then you must have net borrowed $10; conversely if you spend $90 and earn $100, then you have net savings of $10, or have reduced debt by $10, for net change in debt of –$10.

If debt grows or shrinks slowly as a percentage of GDP, its impact on Aggregate Demand is small; conversely, if debt is significant, then changes in the dynamics of debt growth can have significant impact on Aggregate Demand. Change in debt is tied to the level of debt:[4] if the overall debt level is 10% of GDP and 1% of loans are not repaid, this impacts GDP by 1% of 10% = .1% of GDP, which is statistical noise. Conversely, if the debt level is 300% of GDP and 1% of loans are not repaid, this impacts GDP by 1% of 300% = 3% of GDP, which is significant: a change of this magnitude will generally cause a recession. Similarly, changes in the repayment rate (debtors paying down their debts) impact Aggregate Demand in proportion to the level of debt. Thus, as the level of debt in an economy grows, the economy becomes more sensitive to debt dynamics, and credit bubbles are of macroeconomic concern. Since write-offs and savings rates both spike in recessions, both of which result in shrinkage of credit, the resulting drop in Aggregate Demand can worsen and perpetuate the recession in a vicious cycle.

This perspective originates in, and is intimately tied to, the debt-deflation theory of Irving Fisher, and the notion of a credit bubble (credit being the flip side of debt), and has been elaborated in the Post-Keynesian school.[4] If the overall level of debt is rising each year, then Aggregate Demand exceeds Income by that amount. However, if the level of debt stops rising and instead starts falling (if "the bubble bursts"), then Aggregate Demand falls short of income, by the amount of net savings (largely in the form of debt repayment or debt writing off, such as in bankruptcy). This causes a sudden and sustained drop in Aggregate Demand, and this shock is argued to be the proximate cause of a class of economic crises, properly financial crises. Indeed, a fall in the level of debt is not necessary – even a slowing in the rate of debt growth causes a drop in Aggregate Demand (relative to the higher borrowing year).[5] These crises then end when credit starts growing again, either because most or all debts have been repaid or written off, or for other reasons as below.

From the perspective of debt, the Keynesian prescription of government deficit spending in the face of an economic crisis consists of the government net dis-saving (increasing its debt) to compensate for the shortfall in private debt: it replaces private debt with public debt. Other alternatives include seeking to restart the growth of private debt ("reflate the bubble"), or slow or stop its fall; and debt relief, which by lowering or eliminating debt stops credit from contracting (as it cannot fall below zero) and allow debt to either stabilize or grow – this has as further effect a redistribution of wealth from creditors (who write off debts) to debtors (whose debts are relieved).

See also

External links


  2. ^ Sullivan, arthur; Steven M. Sheffrin (2003). Economics: Principles in action. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 307. ISBN 0-13-063085-3.  
  3. ^ "aggregate demand (AD)". Retrieved 2007-11-04.  
  4. ^ a b c Debtwatch No 41, December 2009: 4 Years of Calling the GFC, Steve Keen, December 1, 2009
  5. ^ "However much you borrow and spend this year, if it is less than last year, it means your spending will go into recession." Dhaval Joshi, RAB Capital, quoted in Noughty boys on trading floor led us into debt-laden fantasy


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