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Surplus vs. Shortage: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 31, 2023
Surplus is an excess amount over what is needed, while shortage is a deficiency or lack compared to the demand or requirement.

Key Differences

Surplus refers to the amount of something that exceeds what is necessary or required. Shortage, conversely, is when the availability of something falls short of its demand or need.
In economics, a surplus indicates an excess supply over demand, possibly leading to lower prices. A shortage means demand exceeds supply, often resulting in higher prices.
A market surplus can lead to wastage or storage costs, whereas a shortage can cause market disruptions and consumer dissatisfaction.
Governments and businesses manage surplus by adjusting production or finding new markets. Managing shortage involves increasing production, importing goods, or rationing.
A surplus can be seen in overstocked products, while a shortage is evident in items frequently out of stock.

Comparison Chart


Excess amount over what is needed
Deficiency or lack compared to requirement

Economic Impact

May lead to lower prices
Often results in higher prices

Market Effect

Can cause wastage or need for storage
Leads to market disruptions

Management Strategies

Adjusting production, finding new markets
Increasing production, importing, rationing

Common Occurrences

Overstocked products
Frequently out-of-stock items

Surplus and Shortage Definitions


Remaining when use or need is satisfied.
After the event, they had a surplus of food.


Lack or insufficiency.
There was a shortage of qualified teachers in the district.


Excess of income or assets over expenditure or liabilities.
The budget surplus allowed for additional investments.


The amount by which something is less than the required or expected amount.
The shortage of 100 units meant delayed production.


An amount greater than what is necessary or used.
The company's surplus of products led to a clearance sale.


A situation in which something needed cannot be obtained in sufficient amounts.
The drought led to a water shortage in the region.


An excess of production or supply over demand.
The oil surplus caused a drop in prices.


A state in which the demand for a product or service exceeds its supply in a market.
The sudden popularity of the product led to a shortage.


More than what is needed or used; extra.
The surplus equipment was donated to schools.


A deficit of something required or expected.
The hospital faced a shortage of medical supplies.


Being more than or in excess of what is needed or required
Surplus grain.


A deficiency in amount; an insufficiency.


An amount or quantity in excess of what is needed.


Can a surplus lead to waste?

Yes, surplus can result in wastage if the excess is not utilized.

How does a shortage affect prices?

Shortages often result in higher prices due to increased demand and limited supply.

How does a surplus affect prices?

A surplus usually leads to lower prices due to excess supply.

Can shortages be artificially created?

Yes, shortages can be artificially created through hoarding or limiting production.

What is a shortage?

Shortage is a lack or deficiency of something needed.

What is a surplus?

Surplus is an excess of something, especially beyond what is required.

What are examples of surplus in nature?

A good harvest leading to excess crops is an example of surplus in nature.

What is an energy shortage?

An energy shortage happens when the supply of energy is less than the demand.

What happens to surplus goods in a market?

They may be stored, sold at reduced prices, or repurposed.

How do consumers react to shortages?

Consumers may resort to panic buying, brand switching, or reducing consumption.

How do supply chain issues affect surplus and shortage?

Supply chain disruptions can lead to both surplus and shortage, affecting availability and distribution.

How do businesses handle surplus?

Businesses may lower prices, run promotions, or find new markets to handle surplus.

How do governments address shortages?

Governments may import goods, encourage production, or implement rationing to address shortages.

Can surplus lead to economic problems?

Yes, prolonged surplus can lead to economic imbalances and resource misallocation.

How can shortages impact society?

Shortages can lead to social unrest, increased costs, and reduced quality of life.

Are surpluses beneficial in the economy?

Surpluses can be beneficial if managed properly, providing opportunities for growth and stability.

What role do price controls play in surplus and shortage?

Price controls can exacerbate surpluses and shortages by interfering with market mechanisms.

What causes a shortage?

Shortages can be caused by increased demand, reduced supply, or distribution issues.

What is a budget surplus?

A budget surplus occurs when income exceeds expenditures.

Can a shortage lead to innovation?

Yes, shortages can drive innovation in finding alternative solutions or products.
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
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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