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Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution


The Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution (MRTS) is a concept in economics that refers to the rate at which one input in a production process can be replaced by another input while maintaining the same level of output. In simpler terms, it is the amount by which the quantity of one input can be reduced as the quantity of another input increases, without affecting the overall production level. The MRTS highlights the trade-offs between different inputs and helps firms optimize their resource allocation.


The phonetics of the keyword “Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution” is:ˈmɑrʤɪnl ˈreɪt ʌv ˈtɛkˈnɪkəl ˌsʌbstɪˈtuʃən

Key Takeaways


  1. Definition: The Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution (MRTS) represents the rate at which one input can be substituted for another input in the production process while maintaining the same level of output.
  2. Representation on the isoquant map: MRTS is represented by the slope of the isoquant curve, which shows the various combination of inputs that could produce a certain level of output. MRTS demonstrates the trade-off between inputs as one replaces the other while maintaining the same level of output.
  3. Relation to marginal products: MRTS is given by the ratio of the marginal products of the two inputs. When the marginal product of one input is relatively higher than the other, it indicates that substituting the input with a higher marginal product for the input with a lower marginal product would result in a smaller decrease in output.


The Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution (MRTS) is an important concept in business and finance as it reflects the rate at which one input of production can be replaced by another input, while keeping the output level constant. By understanding this measure, businesses can optimize their production process by efficiently allocating their resources, particularly labor and capital. It helps companies analyze the trade-offs between different inputs, allowing them to make well-informed decisions and maximize their productivity – an essential component when striving for a competitive edge in the market. Additionally, MRTS can aid in designing cost-minimization strategies and determining the optimal mix of resources to achieve desired production levels, ultimately promoting long-term growth and stability within a firm.


The Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution (MRTS) serves a crucial purpose in production analysis, as it helps firms and business owners understand the trade-offs associated with deploying different resources in the production process. By examining the MRTS, businesses can optimize their resource allocation decisions to maximize productivity and minimize costs, ultimately leading to an efficient use of resources. Essentially, the MRTS measures the rate at which a business can substitute one input, such as labor or capital, for another while maintaining the same level of production. The concept helps firms achieve an optimal mix of inputs for their specific production processes, thus increasing their overall efficiency and profitability. Furthermore, the Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution reveals various insights into the production function of an enterprise, such as identifying the diminishing returns of factor substitution. When the MRTS decreases as more of one input is substituted for another, it indicates a diminishing rate of technical substitution, meaning that it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the same production level while continuing to substitute inputs. This insight is particularly crucial for firms operating in competitive markets, as it allows them to optimize their operations by finding the ideal proportions of labor and capital that result in the most efficient allocation of resources. In summary, understanding and utilizing the MRTS serves as a valuable strategy for businesses to improve their production efficiency and maintain a competitive edge in the market.


The marginal rate of technical substitution (MRTS) is an economic theory that measures the rate at which one input (e.g., labor or capital) can be substituted with another input, while maintaining the same level of production. Here are three real-world examples related to MRTS: 1. Manufacturing industry: In a car manufacturing plant, the company can decide to substitute labor with capital (machines) to maintain its production level. For example, they might choose to install robotic arms to assemble cars and reduce the number of workers required on the assembly line. The MRTS helps the company to determine the optimal mix of labor and capital needed to produce cars efficiently. 2. Agriculture: In a large-scale farming operation, the farm owner may need to decide whether to use more labor (workers) or more capital (machinery) to maintain their crop production level. For example, if the technology for harvesting machines has improved and become more cost-effective, the farm owner might consider replacing some manual labor with these machines. The MRTS will help the farmer in this decision process by indicating the optimal mix of labor and capital needed for efficient crop production. 3. Service industry: In a restaurant, the management might face a decision on whether to invest in more technology, like self-service ordering kiosks, to maintain their service level with fewer staff members. By utilizing the MRTS to analyze the potential impact of introducing the self-service kiosks on labor and capital, the management can assess whether this would result in a more efficient utilization of resources while maintaining a satisfactory level of service for their customers.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution (MRTS)?
The Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution (MRTS) is an economic concept used to analyze the rate at which one input can be substituted for another within a production process while maintaining the same level of production or output. It quantifies the trade-offs that a firm makes when choosing the optimal combination of inputs in order to minimize costs.
How is the Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution calculated?
The MRTS is calculated as the ratio of marginal productivities of the two inputs being considered. In mathematical terms, MRTS = -(Marginal Product of Input 1) / (Marginal Product of Input 2).
Why is the Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution important?
The MRTS is important because it helps firms and managers determine the optimal combination of inputs to use in their production processes to minimize costs and maximize overall efficiency. It also illustrates the trade-offs that firms face when deciding which inputs to use in their production processes and how to allocate resources accordingly.
What are some factors that could affect the Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution?
Factors that could affect the MRTS might include changes in production technology, input prices, and government policies. These factors could lead to changes in the marginal productivities of inputs, thereby causing a change in the MRTS.
How does the isoquant curve relate to the Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution?
Isoquant curves represent different combinations of inputs that result in the same level of output. The MRTS is the slope of an isoquant curve at a given point, indicating the substitution rate between inputs required to maintain constant output at that specific point. As you move along the isoquant, the MRTS may change depending on the relative productivity of the inputs and how easily they can be substituted for one another.
What is the relationship between Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution and returns to scale?
Returns to scale refer to how the output changes when all inputs are increased proportionally. When a production process exhibits constant returns to scale, the optimal input mix remains the same as input levels increase. However, if there are increasing or decreasing returns to scale, the MRTS may change along the isoquant, indicating changes in the optimal input mix as the firm scales up or down production.
Can the Marginal Rate of Technical Substitution be constant for all input combinations?
Yes, the MRTS can be constant for all input combinations in some cases, especially when the production function exhibits a Cobb-Douglas form. This indicates that the relative substitution rate between inputs remains constant regardless of the input levels being used.

Related Finance Terms

  • Production Function
  • Isoquant Curve
  • Input Factors
  • Diminishing Marginal Productivity
  • Optimal Factor Proportions

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