What is Economic Utility?

Economic utility refers to the satisfaction or usefulness that a consumer derives from a product or service. It is a concept in economics that measures the value a consumer places on a good or service and the usefulness they receive from consuming it. In other words, it is the usefulness or satisfaction that a consumer gets from a good or service, beyond the simple possession of it.

Economic utility can be of two types: form utility and place utility. Form utility refers to the value that is added to a product through its design, features, and benefits. For example, a smartphone with more features and capabilities is considered to have more form utility than a basic phone. Place utility refers to the convenience of being able to access a product, such as the location of a store or the availability of a product online.

Economic utility is an important concept in the field of economics because it helps to determine the value of a product or service and how consumers will respond to changes in price, availability, or quality. For example, if the price of a product increases, consumers may seek out alternative products that provide the same level of utility at a lower cost.

Economic utility is also used to determine the optimal pricing strategy for a product or service. Companies can use information about consumer preferences and behavior to determine the price at which they can sell the maximum number of units while still earning a profit. By understanding the economic utility of their products, companies can make informed decisions about pricing, production, and distribution to optimize their profits.

Simplified Example

Economic utility is like how much fun you have with a toy or a game. If you have a toy that you really like and you play with it a lot, it has a high economic utility for you. If you have a toy that you don't like as much, you might not play with it as much and it has a lower economic utility for you.

Think of it like this, imagine you have two toys, a car and a ball. You love playing with the car because it has cool wheels and you can drive it around, but you don't like the ball as much because it's not as fun to play with. The car has a higher economic utility for you because you get more fun and satisfaction from playing with it.

Some things might be more expensive but you really enjoy them and have a lot of fun with them. Other things might be cheaper but you don't like them as much. The things that you enjoy and have fun with have a higher economic utility for you.

In this way, economic utility is a measure of how much satisfaction or enjoyment you get from a product or a service. Just like with toys and games, it helps you and your parents make good choices about what to buy and what is worth the money.

Who Invented Economic Utility?

Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782), a Swiss mathematician and economist, is renowned for formalizing the concept of utility in economics. His 1738 paper, "Exposition of a New Theory on the Measurement of Risk," introduced the groundbreaking idea that utility is not merely proportional to wealth but is linked to the satisfaction derived from it. Bernoulli's work included the development of the concept of diminishing marginal utility, asserting that the additional satisfaction gained from each additional unit of a good or service decreases as consumption increases. Building on Bernoulli's foundations, Alfred Marshall (1842-1924), a British economist, further refined the concept of utility and seamlessly integrated it into mainstream economic theory. Marshall's seminal textbook, "Principles of Economics" (1890), defined utility as "the pleasure or satisfaction derived from the consumption of a commodity." Marshall also introduced the concept of cardinal utility, suggesting that utility can be measured on a numerical scale.


Food and Beverages: People buy food and beverages for their sustenance, but they also derive pleasure from eating and drinking. For example, consumers may prefer a brand of coffee that provides a better taste and aroma, despite being more expensive. This is an example of economic utility, as the consumer is receiving satisfaction from the product that is more than just sustenance.

Technology Products: Technology products such as smartphones, laptops, and smartwatches have become essential to many consumers and provide them with a wide range of features and benefits. For example, consumers may choose to purchase a smartphone with a better camera or longer battery life, despite its higher cost. This is an example of form utility, as the consumer is receiving value from the product in the form of improved features and capabilities.

Clothing: Clothing provides both form and place utility to consumers. Consumers may choose to buy clothing that is stylish, comfortable, and fits well, despite its higher cost. On the other hand, consumers may choose to buy clothing from a store that is conveniently located, despite the higher prices or limited selection. This is an example of place utility, as the consumer is receiving value from the product in the form of convenience and accessibility.

  • Utility Token: A type of cryptocurrency that can be used as a medium of exchange within an ecosystem.

  • Digital Barter Economy: An economic system where goods and services are exchanged directly between individuals, without the use of traditional currency or intermediaries.