What Is Aggregate Demand?

Retail is a big driver of economic output. Photo: Photo: Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

Aggregate demand is a way to measure how many goods and services people buy. It's usually reported for a specific time period, such as a month, quarter, or year.

Key Takeaways

  • Aggregate demand is the demand for all goods and services in an economy.
  • The law of demand says people will buy more when prices fall.
  • The demand curve measures the quantity demanded at each price.
  • The five components of aggregate demand are consumer spending, business spending, government spending, and exports minus imports.
  • The aggregate demand formula is AD = C + I + G + (X-M).

Definitions and Examples of Aggregate Demand

Aggregate demand is the total demand for final goods and services in an economy. The law of demand assumes the other determinants of demand don't change. The other determinants are income, prices of related goods or services (whether complementary or substitutes), tastes, and expectations. The sixth determinant that only affects aggregate demand is the number of buyers in the economy.

There are five components of aggregate demand. Everything purchased in a country is the same thing as everything produced in a country. As a result, aggregate demand equals the gross domestic product of that economy. These are the same as the components of GD:

  1. Consumer spending: That's what families spend on final products that aren't used for investment.
  2. Investment spending by business: This only includes purchases of equipment, buildings, and inventory.
  3. Government spending on goods and services: It does not include transfer payments, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They aren't included because they don't increase demand. These programs shift demand from one group (taxpayers) to another (beneficiaries).
  4. Exports: This is demand from other countries.
  5. Minus imports: These are demands made by U.S. residents that can't be met by domestic production. So, the demand leaves the economic system of the United States.

When COVID-19 hit, the U.S. GDP became alarmingly low in the second quarter of 2020. As a result, aggregate demand also fell. This had to do with the supply shock that happened when factories and businesses that supply services closed. Experts are expecting a rebound as suppliers ramp up production.

The most critical component of demand is consumer goods and services. While the U.S. supplies its own services, it imports goods that can be made more efficiently overseas. These include industrial supplies, oil, telecommunication equipment, autos, clothing, and furniture. 


The five factors that make up aggregate demand are the same used to determine a country's gross domestic product.

How Does Aggregate Demand Work?

As incomes rise, people can buy more. As people buy more, companies can make more, and then pay employees more. The ideal situation is healthy growth with moderate inflation.

Aggregate demand is measured by the following mathematical formula.

AD = C + I + G + (X-M)

It describes the relationship between demand and its five components.

Aggregate Demand = Consumer Spending + Investment Spending + Government Spending + (Exports - Imports)

The formula for aggregate demand is the same as the one used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis to measure nominal GDP. In the first quarter of 2021, it was $22.06 trillion.  Here's how to calculate it. Use Table 1.1.5 GDP of the BEA's GDP and Personal Income Accounts.

  • C = Personal Consumption Expenditures of $15.07 trillion
  • I = Gross Private Domestic Investment of $3.92 trillion
  • G = Government Consumption Expenditures of $3.95 trillion
  • (X-M) = Net Exports of Goods and Services of -$0.875 billion

Add them together and you get $22.06 trillion. 


Demand drives economic growth, and growth drives demand.

What It Means for You

The government makes policy depending on how strong demand is in the country. If demand is low, then the government will try to increase it.

That's when the nation's central bank uses expansionary monetary policy. It lowers interest rates and that decreases the cost of automobile, education, and home loans. Similarly, businesses borrow more to buy equipment and expand their operations. The law of demand tells you that lower costs spur demand and economic growth.

Ideally, monetary policy should work in conjunction with the government's fiscal policy. Government leaders spur demand by reducing taxes or increasing spending on programs. That's called expansionary fiscal policy. 

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  1. Federal Reserve Bank. "Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply Effects of COVID-19: A Real-time Analysis." Accessed July 2, 2021.

  2. Bureau of Economic Analysis. “National Income and Product Accounts Tables," Table 1.1.5. Nominal GDP. Accessed July 2, 2021.

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