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Giffen Good


A Giffen Good is a unique type of inferior good, named after the Scottish economist Sir Robert Giffen, where demand increases as the price rises and falls when the price decreases. This seemingly contradictory principle defies the basic law of demand in economics. The occurrence of Giffen goods is rare and typically associated with staple commodities, such as bread or rice, in situations of extreme poverty.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Giffen Good” is: “Gif-en Good”.

Key Takeaways

  1. Inferior Good: Giffen goods are a type of inferior good, meaning when a consumer’s income increases, their demand for this good decreases.
  2. Price-Demand Relationship: They are unique in the fact that they violate the law of demand. For a Giffen good, as the price increases, consumer demand also increases.
  3. Rarity: Giffen goods are extremely rare, and there are very few proven examples in existence. The most commonly referenced example is the consumption of bread during the Irish Potato Famine.


The concept of a Giffen Good is important in the field of business and finance as it poses a distinctive exception to the fundamental law of demand in economics, which states that as the price of a good increases, demand decreases. A Giffen Good, named after Scottish economist Sir Robert Giffen, refers to an inferior product for which demand increases as its price rises, defying conventional wisdom. This typically occurs when the good is a basic necessity and there are no cheaper alternatives available. Understanding this concept can help economists, business strategists, and policymakers to develop more effective pricing and economic policies, especially within low-income markets and during times of economic hardship.


A Giffen Good, named after the Scottish economist Robert Giffen, operates within the fundamental paradigm of microeconomics, precisely within the framework of consumer behavior and market demand analysis. The primary purpose of this notion is to exemplify a rare and counter-intuitive case of goods that defy the basic law of demand. The law of demand indicates that as the price of a good increases, the quantity demanded decreases. In contrast, Giffen Goods are those which see an increase in demand as their price increases. This exception to the general law of demand helps economists understand the nuances of consumer behavior under different market conditions. Giffen Goods are typically inferior goods for which consumers do not find easy substitutes. For instance, during a period of inflation or economic hardship, staples like bread or rice might become Giffen Goods, where people consume more of them as their prices rise, primarily because they can’t afford more expensive food items. From a market standpoint, the circumstances giving rise to Giffen Goods usually indicate economic imbalance or distress. Thus, these goods are valuable to economists for studying price elasticity, market response, and the effect of economic policies on consumption patterns. Understanding the concept of Giffen Goods can help policymakers design interventions appropriately during economic crises.


1. Staple Food Items in Low-Income Communities: The most commonly cited Giffen good is rice or wheat in poor communities. If the price of rice goes up significantly, those who are living in poverty may not be able to afford as much meat or vegetables. Thus, they buy more rice because it’s all they can afford, even though the price has increased, making it a Giffen good. 2. Potatoes during the Irish Potato Famine: During the 19th century’s Irish Potato Famine, potatoes were considered a Giffen good. As the price rose due to the famine, poorer Irish families could not afford to buy other foods, so they relied even more heavily on potatoes, even as the price kept climbing. 3. Luxury Goods: Certain luxury goods may also act as Giffen goods. For example, diamonds or high-end designer brands can become more desirable as their prices rise. The increasing price gives an image of exclusivity, which increases demand among customers who seek to uphold a certain status.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Giffen Good in finance?
A Giffen Good is a product or service that sees an increase in demand as the price increases. It contradicts the fundamental law of demand in economics.
Can you give an example of a Giffen Good?
One common example, from history, is bread during a famine. As the price of bread goes up, people cannot afford to buy meat, so they end up buying more bread instead.
Where does the term Giffen Good come from?
The term is named after Victorian economist Sir Robert Giffen, who first proposed the concept.
What economic theory does the Giffen Good contradict?
Giffen Good contradicts the law of demand, which states that as the price of a good or service rises, people will generally purchase less of it.
Why is the Giffen Good concept important in finance and business?
Understanding Giffen Goods allows businesses to set pricing strategies and economic models. It also helps economists understand consumer behavior under different conditions.
How common is the Giffen Good phenomenon?
Giffen Goods are quite rare. This is mainly due to the specific conditions needed for a good to qualify as a Giffen Good.
Can a luxury good be a Giffen Good?
Typically, no. Giffen Goods are usually inferior goods (goods for which demand decreases when consumer income grows), whereas luxury goods are usually those for which demand increases even with a price rise.

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