What is Marginal Revenue: Definition and Calculation

Arthur Jones
6 Min Read
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Understanding marginal revenue is crucial for businesses aiming to maximize their profits. This concept plays a significant role in pricing strategies and decision-making processes. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the definition of marginal revenue, explore its calculation, and examine its importance in the business landscape.

Definition of Marginal Revenue

Marginal revenue is the additional revenue generated from selling one more unit of a product or service. It is a key metric in economics and business that helps firms determine the optimal level of output and pricing. MR is derived from the total revenue curve and provides insight into how revenue changes with variations in sales volume.

Key Points:

  • Additional Revenue: Marginal revenue reflects the incremental revenue from an extra unit sold.
  • Revenue Analysis: It aids in understanding the relationship between sales volume and revenue.
  • Profit Maximization: Businesses use marginal revenue to identify the most profitable level of production.

How to Calculate Marginal Revenue

Calculating marginal revenue involves understanding the change in total revenue as a result of selling one more unit. The formula for MR is straightforward:

[ \text{Marginal Revenue (MR)} = \frac{\Delta \text{Total Revenue (TR)}}{\Delta \text{Quantity (Q)}} ]


  • (\Delta \text{Total Revenue (TR)}) is the change in total revenue.
  • (\Delta \text{Quantity (Q)}) is the change in the number of units sold.

Step-by-Step Calculation:

  1. Determine Initial Total Revenue (TR(_1)): Calculate the total revenue before the additional unit is sold.
  2. Determine New Total Revenue (TR(_2)): Calculate the total revenue after the additional unit is sold.
  3. Calculate Change in Total Revenue ((\Delta \text{TR})): Subtract the initial total revenue (TR(_1)) from the new total revenue (TR(_2)).
  4. Calculate Change in Quantity ((\Delta \text{Q})): This is usually 1 unit since we are considering the sale of one additional unit.
  5. Compute Marginal Revenue: Use the formula to find the marginal revenue.

Example Calculation:

Suppose a company sells 100 units of a product at $10 each, generating a total revenue of $1,000. If selling one more unit (making it 101 units) increases the total revenue to $1,010, the MR is calculated as follows:

  • Initial Total Revenue (TR(_1)): $1,000
  • New Total Revenue (TR(_2)): $1,010
  • Change in Total Revenue ((\Delta \text{TR})): $1,010 – $1,000 = $10
  • Change in Quantity ((\Delta \text{Q})): 101 – 100 = 1
  • Marginal Revenue (MR): ( \frac{\Delta \text{TR}}{\Delta \text{Q}} = \frac{10}{1} = $10 )

Importance of Marginal Revenue in Business

MR is vital for businesses for several reasons. It helps in profit maximization, pricing strategy, and output decision.

Profit Maximization:

To maximize profits, a business must produce at a level where MR equals marginal cost (MR = MC). If MR exceeds MC, producing more units will increase profit. Conversely, if MR is less than MC, reducing output will enhance profitability.

Pricing Strategy:

MR informs pricing decisions. In a perfectly competitive market, firms are price takers, and MR equals the market price. In monopolistic or oligopolistic markets, firms have pricing power, and understanding MR helps set optimal prices to maximize revenue.

Output Decision:

Businesses use marginal revenue to determine the ideal quantity of goods to produce. Producing too many units can lead to diminishing returns, while producing too few units can result in missed revenue opportunities.

Marginal Revenue and Market Structures

MR behaves differently across various market structures:

Perfect Competition:

In a perfectly competitive market, MR is equal to the price of the product. Firms are price takers, and selling one more unit does not affect the market price.


In a monopoly, the marginal revenue is less than the price due to the downward-sloping demand curve. Monopolists must lower the price to sell additional units, causing MR to decrease as output increases.


In an oligopolistic market, marginal revenue depends on the competitive interactions between firms. Strategic considerations, such as price wars and collusion, influence MR and overall pricing strategies.

Graphical Representation of Marginal Revenue

Graphically, MR can be illustrated using the total revenue and marginal revenue curves. The total revenue curve typically rises and then falls, reflecting the initial increase in revenue with additional sales and eventual decrease due to market saturation or price reductions. The marginal revenue curve slopes downward, indicating the diminishing additional revenue from selling more units.

Total Revenue Curve:

  • Rising Phase: Initially, total revenue increases with additional sales.
  • Peak: Total revenue reaches its maximum point.
  • Falling Phase: Beyond the peak, total revenue decreases with further sales.

Marginal Revenue Curve:

  • Downward Slope: MR decreases as more units are sold, reflecting the lower additional revenue from each new unit.


Understanding and calculating marginal revenue is essential for businesses aiming to optimize their pricing strategies and production levels. By analyzing marginal revenue, companies can make informed decisions that enhance profitability and ensure sustainable growth. Mastering this concept is a key component of effective business management.

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