General English


  • noun a lack or low availability of something

Health Economics

  • (written as Shortage)
    All too frequently 'shortage' is used in an assertive way by people having a vested interest of some sort in the entity asserted to be in short supply. The only technical meaning for 'shortage' in economics (using the test for 'how much' of a resource is 'enough') relates to the value to be attached to the increase (and by whom it is attached) compared with the cost of creating the increase. If the value exceeds the cost, there is a shortage in the sense that (ceteris paribus, and given a few other assumptions) more ought to be consumed. Behaviourally, if demand exceeds supply at the going price there is said to be a shortage. However, it does not follow that this shortage ought to be eliminated (e.g. by allowing price to rise, supply to increase or demand to fall, or any combination of these three) unless there are grounds for believing that the efficient (or equitable) allocation of resources would be enhanced thereby. Likewise, in comparing the marginal value with the marginal cost, the normative interpretation given above needs to take account of any illegitimate omissions from marginal cost and marginal value.


  • noun a situation where there is not enough of something


  • noun the number of copies of a book or magazine which have not been printed