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Diminishing Returns vs. Diseconomies of Scale: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 19, 2023
Diminishing returns occur when additional input yields less output in a production process; diseconomies of scale arise when increasing production size increases average costs.

Key Differences

Diminishing returns refer to a point in production where each additional unit of input results in a lesser increase in output. On the other hand, diseconomies of scale occur when a company's expansion leads to increased per-unit costs.
Diminishing returns typically occur in the short term, within existing operational scales. Whereas, diseconomies of scale manifest in larger-scale operations, often as a firm grows significantly.
Diminishing returns arise due to the inefficiency of additional inputs in a fixed setup. While, diseconomies of scale are caused by complexities and inefficiencies associated with managing a larger enterprise.
Diminishing returns are common in agriculture and manufacturing where input effectiveness decreases. In contrast, diseconomies of scale are observed in industries where large-scale production leads to coordination and communication problems.
In diminishing returns, the cost per unit can increase due to less efficient input use. Diseconomies of scale result in higher average costs due to operational inefficiencies in large-scale production.

Comparison Chart


Reduced output per additional input unit
Increased average costs with larger output


Short-term, within existing production scale
Long-term, as the company size increases

Primary Causes

Inefficiency of additional inputs
Management and operational complexities

Common Industries

Agriculture, manufacturing
Large-scale, diverse industries

Impact on Costs

Increase in cost per unit of output
Increase in average cost per unit

Diminishing Returns and Diseconomies of Scale Definitions

Diminishing Returns

Point where input addition yields less.
Hiring more workers caused diminishing returns in the factory's output.

Diseconomies of Scale

Increased costs as a company expands.
The corporation faced diseconomies of scale after opening multiple international branches.

Diminishing Returns

Reduced efficiency with added input.
Adding more fertilizer eventually led to diminishing returns in crop yield.

Diseconomies of Scale

Cost disadvantage due to business growth.
Rapid expansion led to diseconomies of scale in customer service quality.

Diminishing Returns

A production level where benefits decrease.
The software team faced diminishing returns after a certain number of coding hours.

Diseconomies of Scale

Rising per-unit costs with increased output.
The tech company experienced diseconomies of scale with its overly rapid product diversification.

Diminishing Returns

Less output per unit of input over time.
Continuous investment in old machinery resulted in diminishing returns.

Diseconomies of Scale

Decreased profitability with scaling up.
Diseconomies of scale were apparent when the small startup lost its operational efficiency.

Diminishing Returns

Decrease in marginal output of a factor.
The diminishing returns of intensive land cultivation were evident.

Diseconomies of Scale

Inefficiency leading to higher average costs.
Diseconomies of scale occurred due to poor management in the enlarged factory.


How do diseconomies of scale affect a business?

They increase the average cost per unit as the business grows.

What causes diminishing returns in production?

Inefficient additional inputs in a fixed operational setup.

Can diminishing returns be temporary?

Yes, they are often a short-term phenomenon in production.

Can technological advances affect diseconomies of scale?

Yes, technology can mitigate some factors causing diseconomies of scale.

Are diminishing returns related to resource limitations?

Yes, they often result from limited resource effectiveness.

Do diseconomies of scale apply to all industries?

They can affect any industry, particularly in large-scale operations.

Is the concept of diminishing returns applicable to services?

Yes, it can apply to any productive activity, including services.

What triggers diseconomies of scale in a company?

Operational inefficiencies, poor management, and communication problems.

Can diminishing returns be avoided?

Efficient resource management can mitigate but not entirely avoid them.

Are diseconomies of scale a sign of poor management?

Not always, but they often indicate management challenges.

Can innovation offset diminishing returns?

Yes, innovation can improve input efficiency and output.

Do diminishing returns impact profitability directly?

Yes, as they reduce the efficiency of production, affecting profitability.

How do market conditions affect diseconomies of scale?

Market saturation and competition can exacerbate diseconomies of scale.

How does company size relate to diseconomies of scale?

Larger companies are more susceptible to diseconomies of scale.

What's the relationship between scale and diseconomies?

Diseconomies of scale increase as the scale of operation increases.

Is outsourcing a solution to diseconomies of scale?

It can be, by reducing internal complexity and costs.

Do diminishing returns apply to all types of businesses?

They are most relevant in production and manufacturing sectors.

Are diseconomies of scale reversible?

With strategic changes, they can be mitigated or reversed.

How does labor impact diminishing returns?

Additional labor can lead to diminishing returns in a fixed setup.

Can diversification lead to diminishing returns?

Yes, if it diverts focus from efficient core activities.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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