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Why does a subsidy cause a deadweight loss?

Relevant Topics

This question pertains to topics in Microeconomics, such as Government Interventions and Market Structure


Subsidy: A subsidy is a form of financial support extended to an economic sector (business or individual) generally with the aim of promoting economic and social policy.

Deadweight Loss:
Deadweight loss is a loss of economic efficiency that can occur when equilibrium for a good or service is not achieved or is not achievable.

Detailed Explanation:

A subsidy can cause a deadweight loss because it distorts market outcomes and can lead to overproduction. When the government provides a subsidy, it effectively lowers the cost of production for producers. As a result, the producers can afford to supply more at each price level, which shifts the supply curve rightwards. Consumers also respond to the lower price by increasing their demand.

However, this can lead to an overallocation of resources to the subsidised product at the expense of other goods and services, creating a deadweight loss. This is because some of the goods produced and consumed as a result of the subsidy cost more to make than consumers are willing to pay for them.


Corn Subsidies in the United States: The US government heavily subsidises corn production, leading to a significant overproduction of corn. This overproduction could be seen as a deadweight loss as resources are allocated to corn production that could have been more efficiently used elsewhere.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Globally
: Many governments subsidise fossil fuels, which leads to overconsumption and overproduction of these energy sources. This creates a deadweight loss due to the misallocation of resources, and it also exacerbates environmental issues like climate change.


In conclusion, while subsidies can provide benefits like encouraging production and consumption of certain goods or services, they can also cause a deadweight loss. This happens when subsidies lead to overproduction and overconsumption, resulting in an inefficient allocation of resources in the economy. 

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