The essential thing to see in the concept of opportunity cost is found in the name of the concept. Economist Michael Nieswiadomy of the University of North Texas collected data on Law School Admittance Test (LSAT) scores for the 12 undergraduate majors listed most often by students hoping to enter law school in the class of 2008–9. A wide range of career opportunities is open to economics majors. How might we test such a hypothesis? What is your opportunity cost of pursuing study of economics? It is not clear from the information given how close the estimate of cost comes to the economic concept of opportunity cost. An assertion of a relationship between two or more variables that could be proven to be false. Is the total level of economic activity rising or falling? is something whose value does not change. Our observation of the gasoline market between May 2005 and May 2006 did not offer a conclusive test of the hypothesis that an increase in the price of gasoline would lead to a reduction in the quantity demanded by consumers., Table 1.1 "LSAT Scores for Students Taking the Exam in 2008", Table 1.2 "Average Yearly Salary Offers, Summer 2011",, Chapter 2 "Confronting Scarcity: Choices in Production", Economists assume that individuals make choices that seek to maximize the value of some objective, and that they define their objectives in terms of their own self-interest. A fundamental assumption of most modern economic theory, according researchers at Stanford University, is the idea that people make choices that serve their own self-interests. A less controversial explanation is that people sometimes lack the information required to make rational choices. But the most important cost of a college education is the value of the forgone alternative uses of time spent studying and attending class instead of using the time in some other endeavor. Does this dollar cost fully reflect the opportunity cost to you of taking the course? Economics ranges from the very small to the very large. interest: money a bank or borrower pays for the use of money trade-off: giving up the chance to buy Household water consumption in the United States totals about 105 gallons per person per day. Some researchers argue every problem studied by economists ultimately boils down to the study of individuals making decisions about what to do. Why? Furthermore, economists assume that people’s objectives will be those that serve their own self-interest. The incorrect assumption that one event causes another because the two events tend to occur together. Many of the disagreements among economists stem from differences in values. Why do tickets to the best concerts cost so much? Undergraduate work in economics can be applied to other careers as well. Pursuing one’s own self-interest means pursuing the things that give one satisfaction. Access to health care should not be limited by income. Those two uses are clearly alternatives to each other. One consideration relevant to selecting a major is potential earnings in that field. A decision to do a little more or a little less of something. Economists assume, for example, that the owners of business firms seek to maximize profit. But just as certainly, we choose to dump garbage in it. Stanford University: Introduction to Choice Theory, The Atlantic: The Irrational Consumer: Why Economics is Dead Wrong About How We Make Choices. Choice is the central object of study in the discipline. Economics differs from other social sciences because of its emphasis on opportunity cost, the assumption of maximization in terms of one’s own self-interest, and the analysis of choices at the margin. It is within the context of scarcity that economists define what is perhaps the most important concept in all of economics, the concept of opportunity cost. Of course, you might rationally decide to go on vacation if circumstances changed. Does the fact that something is abundant mean it is not scarce in the economic sense? We certainly need the air to breathe. What did Dr. Margaret answer? Economists try to employ the scientific method in their research. Both microeconomics and macroeconomics give attention to individual markets. And, of course, you will consider the expected benefits of alternative courses of study. Economic activity and incomes rose both in the United States and in many other countries, particularly China, and people with higher incomes are likely to buy more gasoline. Economics is not just about money. To say yes to one thing requires that we say no to another. Selecting among alternatives involves three ideas central to economics: scarcity, choice, and opportunity cost. A more likely explanation for the association between baldness and heart disease is that both conditions are affected by an underlying factor. There is another category of assertions, however, for which investigation can never resolve differences. The condition of having to choose among alternatives. The opportunity cost of continuing as a nurses’ aide is the forgone benefit he expects from training as a registered nurse; the opportunity cost of going to college is the forgone income he could have earned working full-time as a nurses’ aide. Copyright 2020 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Media, All Rights Reserved. Reality is never as simple as a model; one point of a model is to simplify the world to improve our understanding of it. Then we will explore the model of demand and supply. Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers, Average Salary Offer to College Class of 2011 Rises 4.8 Percent, press release at Economists employed at colleges and universities teach and conduct research. Others meter water use and charge according to the quantity of water customers use. Price determination is one of the things that we will study in this book. A good that is not scarce is a free good. Economics is one way of looking at the world. The existence of alternative uses forces us to make choices. We will look at these two areas of economic thought in the next section. concerned with the application of economic concepts and economic analysis to the problems of formulating rational managerial decisions Canada’s unemployment rate in May, 2011 was 7.4 percent compared to a U.S. rate that month of 9.1 percent. Economists study such questions as well. 3. All Choices Involve Costs: The opportunity cost is the next best alternative you give up when you make a choice. Outer space, for example, was a free good when the only use we made of it was to gaze at it. Unlike hypotheses, they can also be shown to be correct. The economists’ laboratory is the real world; thus, economists do not generally have the luxury of conducting controlled experiments. A systematic set of procedures through which knowledge is created. The National Welfare … Identify the elements of scarcity, choice, and opportunity cost in each of the following: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, head of the Conservative Party, had walked a political tightrope for five years as the leader of a minority government in Canada’s parliamentary system. We would always like more and better housing, more and better education—more and better of practically everything. Behavioral economists often argue these sorts of paradoxes suggest rational choice theory is fundamentally incorrect and that people do not make rational decisions. The 500-acre area is scarce because it has alternative uses: preservation in its natural state or a site for homes. He must choose between these alternatives. Statements of fact and hypotheses are positive statements. Explain how economists test hypotheses, develop economic theories, and use models in their analyses. The good news for people with early balding (which is really where the association with increased risk of heart disease has been observed) is that they have a signal that might lead them to be checked early on for heart disease. They have developed elaborate statistical tests aimed at ruling out problems of the fallacy of false cause. This does not mean that choice architecture is something to be feared, but perhaps should prompt us all to be more aware of how we make the decisions we make. Why or why not? The Department of Agriculture estimated that the expenditures a middle-income, husband–wife family of three would incur to raise one additional child from birth in 2005 to age 17 would be $250,530. is the condition of having to choose among alternatives. Unlike engineering and accounting majors, economics and other social science majors tend to be distributed over a broad range of occupations. Explain the concepts of scarcity and opportunity cost and how they relate to the definition of economics. If doing one thing requires giving up another, then the expected benefits of the alternatives we face will affect the ones we choose. His alternative was to spend the day with Homer and the family, which he did not really want to do, partly because they never visited him anyway. We could put a gas station on it. This gives people opportunities and means to make choices enabling them to pursue autonomy and take personal responsibility. The federal government does not spend enough for children. If a test reveals that a particular hypothesis is false, then the hypothesis is rejected or modified. Could it possibly be scarce? Every choice has an opportunity cost and opportunity costs affect the choices people make. The evidence suggests it may. Some researchers criticized the government’s action, arguing that concluding that the drugs caused the cardiovascular problems represented an example of the fallacy of false cause. is the value of the best alternative forgone in making any choice. a.True b.False Click … Either way, economists will continue to place study of individuals' choices at the center of the discipline. What uses can we make of the air? When we examine the choice to consume water at the margin, the notion that a higher price would reduce consumption seems much more plausible. Economics is essentially a study that looks at the allocation of scarce resources. How does the threat of global warming affect real estate prices in coastal areas? Faster economic growth? Sources: Kathleen Harris, “A Vote for the Economy,” Canadian Business, 84(6), May 9, 2011; Nirmala Menon and Paul Vieira, “Canada’s Conservatives Win Majority,” The Wall Street Journal online, May 3, 2011; Paul Vieira, “Canada’s Budget Deficit Shrinks on Strong Growth,” The Wall Street Journal online, April 22, 2011; Mary Anastasia O’Grady, “Canada’s Capitalism Referendum, The Wall Street Journal online, May 2, 2011. I believe the foremost economic choice is whether to live off of others’ taxes without input vs choosing to enter the workforce regardless of the benefits you refuse or use from the government. How should goods and services be produced? The number of gallons of gasoline consumed by U.S. motorists rose 0.3% during that period. Selecting among alternatives involves three ideas central to economics: scarcity, choice, and opportunity cost. One problem is that several things may be changing at once; another is that the initial event may be unrelated to the event that follows. Yet we know that a perfect vacuum cannot exist. His opponents, upset by policies such as a reduction in corporate tax rates, sought a no-confidence vote in Parliament in 2011. It need not imply greed or selfishness. The people in this economic system believe what was practiced by their ancestors is right and should not be questioned. Why do senior citizens get discounts on public transit systems? Here are some examples of normative statements in economics: “We ought to do more to help the poor.” “People in the United States should save more.” “Corporate profits are too high.” The statements are based on the values of the person who makes them. Suppose we have decided the land should be used for housing. Three features distinguish the economic approach to choice from the approaches taken in other social sciences: The emphasis economists place on opportunity cost, the idea that people make choices that maximize the value of objectives that serve their self-interest, and a focus on the effects of small changes are ideas of great power. Does that mean that we should dismiss the original hypothesis? Developers had planned to build a housing development on the land. The key factor is for a choice to be made, the resource has to be limited, or, in economics terminology, scarce. For whom should goods and services be produced? Because our resources are limited, we cannot say yes to everything. If solar radiation were shown to be unrelated to plant growth or to retard plant growth, then the hypothesis would be demonstrated to be false. Normative statements, unlike positive statements, cannot be tested and provide a source for potential disagreement. is a social science that examines how people choose among the alternatives available to them. Understand the three fundamental economic questions: What should be produced? The cost of any choice is the option or options that a person gives up. --Referenced: But now, our use of space has reached the point where one use can be an alternative to another. Some of those important choices involve money, but most do not. That includes the value of the best alternative use of money spent for tuition, fees, and books. is a set of simplifying assumptions about some aspect of the real world. We call the variable that responds to the change the dependent variableA variable that responds to change. The hypothesis that an increase in the price of gasoline produces a reduction in the quantity demanded by consumers carries with it the assumption that there are no other changes that might also affect consumer demand. One benefit of the economic way of thinking is that it pushes us to think about the value of alternatives in each problem involving choice. Rational choice theory, also known as theory of rational choice, choice theory or rational action theory, is a framework for understanding and often formally modeling social and economic behavior. If our resources were also unlimited, we could say yes to each of our wants—and there would be no economics. While noting that more research needs to be done, one hypothesis that Dr. Margaret offers is that higher testosterone levels might be triggering both the hair loss and the heart disease. Economists working for business firms and government agencies sometimes forecast economic activity to assist their employers in planning. Instead, most choices involve marginal analysis, ... As a result, economic behavior involves tradeoffs in which individuals, firms, and society must give up something that they desire to obtain things that they desire more. Consider, for example, the problem of curtailing water consumption when the amount of water available falls short of the amount people now use. People clearly gain satisfaction by helping others, as suggested by the large charitable contributions people make. Going out on Friday night could involve several economic trade-offs. Inflation is a measure of the rate of change in the average price level for the entire economy; it is a macroeconomic problem. Economists argue that an understanding of opportunity cost is crucial to the examination of choices. But, should you decide to pursue a major in economics, you should know that a background in this field is likely to serve you well. Prices affect our consumption of water because choices in water consumption, like other choices, are made at the margin. I believe the foremost economic choice is whether to live off of others’ taxes without input vs choosing to enter the workforce regardless of the benefits you refuse or use from the government. Many models in physics and in chemistry assume the existence of a perfect vacuum (that is, a space entirely empty of matter). The study of individual decisions is called microeconomics. Economics is defined less by the subjects economists investigate than by the way in which economists investigate them. As the set of available alternatives changes, we expect that the choices individuals make will change. Ultimately, economics is the study of choice. Economists argue that individuals pay attention to the consequences of small changes in the levels of the activities they pursue. When we choose one thing, we refuse something else at the same time. A hypothesis that has not been rejected after widespread testing and that wins general acceptance is commonly called a theoryA hypothesis that has not been rejected after widespread testing and that wins general acceptance.. A theory that has been subjected to even more testing and that has won virtually universal acceptance becomes a lawA theory that has been subjected to even more testing and that has won virtually universal acceptance.. We will examine two economic laws in the next two chapters. Perhaps more than anything else, it is the economist’s answer to this question that distinguishes economics from other fields. Would time still be scarce? Suppose that you are considering something other than a career in economics. A high income can make it very costly to take a day off; we might expect highly paid individuals to work more hours than those who are not paid as well. Many of the disagreements among economists are based on such differences in values and therefore are unlikely to be resolved. In studying consumers, economists assume that individual consumers make choices aimed at maximizing their level of satisfaction. What happens to economic phenomena such as growth, unemployment, gasoline and food prices, house values, and the national debt matters—and these phenomena matter a great deal. Economics is distinguished from other academic disciplines that also study choices by an emphasis on the central importance of opportunity costs in evaluating choices, the assumption of maximizing behavior that serves the interests of individual decision makers, and a focus on evaluating choices at the margin. Alternatively, you can book a flight to Disneyland. In this usage, anything from timber to money to the number of hours in a day can be a resource. You will also consider your interests and abilities in making a decision about whether to pursue further study in economics. In the scientific method, hypotheses are suggested and then tested. Table 1.2 Average Yearly Salary Offers, Summer 2011. One’s choice of a major is not likely to be based solely on considerations of potential earnings or the prospect of landing a spot in law school. Students sacrifice that time in hopes of even greater earnings in the future or because they place a value on the opportunity to learn. Or consider the cost of going to the doctor. is one that makes a value judgment. If you are going for the big bucks, the best strategy is to major in petroleum engineering. Models in economics also help us to generate hypotheses about the real world. Whether it is the clothes that I wear; or the hotel where I go with my friends. A scarce goodA good for which the choice of one alternative requires that another be given up. c. Products or Services . Here is a hypothesis suggested by the model of demand and supply: an increase in the price of gasoline will reduce the quantity of gasoline consumers demand. If you're the analytical type, fascinated by the world around you, then an economics major might be a good choice for you. Does studying more economics serve your interests and will doing so maximize your satisfaction level? Employment rose as well, and people with jobs use more gasoline as they drive to work. It is not simply the amount spent on that choice. Economics is a broad discipline that helps us understand historical trends, interpret today’s headlines, and make predictions about the coming years. Do the data prove that this hypothesis is correct? Give two explanations for this—one based on the benefits people of different ages are likely to receive from higher education and one based on the opportunity costs of a college education to students of different ages. The impact of higher oil prices on the production of steel, The increased demand in the last 15 years for exotic dietary supplements, The surge in aggregate economic activity that hit much of Asia late in the early 2000s, The sharp increases in U.S. employment and total output that occurred between 2003 and 2007, The impact of preservation of wilderness areas on the logging industry and on the price of lumber. Before deciding to pursue an advanced degree, he worked as a teacher and administrator at three different colleges and universities, and as an education coach for Inside Track. --Referenced: He promises a surplus budget by 2015, a plan the International Monetary Fund has termed “strong and credible.”. Scarcity takes many forms. Should it be a large and expensive house or several modest ones? All choices mean that one alternative is selected over another. b. But things changed between May 2005 and May 2006. On the contrary, we must be cautious in assessing this evidence. The manager must choose between producing cars and producing SUVs. The Environmental Protection Agency is considering an order that a 500-acre area on the outskirts of a large city be preserved in its natural state, because the area is home to a rodent that is considered an endangered species. While the investigation of these problems surely falls within the province of economics, economics encompasses a far broader range of issues. Can you think of any reason why this might be the case. In the next section, we will have a look at what one can do with training in economics. 2. Consider the air we breathe, which is available in huge quantity at no charge to us. is something whose value can change. Since economic decisions have to do with the amount of money a business earns or is valued at, it is essential that the decision-making process relies heavily on the company's financial reports. ; the variable that induces a change is called the independent variableA variable that induces a change.. A model of the real world cannot be the real world. They constitute the core of economic thinking. Think of that starting point as the edge from which a choice at the margin in water consumption is made. is one for which the choice of one alternative use of the good requires that another be given up. Making a choice made normally involves a trade-off – this means that choosing more of one thing can only be achieved by giving up something else in exchange. The average retail price of gasoline in the United States rose from an average of $2.12 per gallon on May 22, 2005 to $2.88 per gallon on May 22, 2006. In the animated television comedy The Simpsons, Homer’s father, Grampa Simpson, faced a classic problem in the allocation of a scarce resource—his time. If you choose to spend $20 on a potted plant, you have simultaneously chosen to give up the benefits of spending the $20 on pizzas or a paperback book or a night at the movies. You can use an economics degree to study industry trends, labor markets, the prospects for individual companies, and the forces that drive the economy. That possibility means that nothing in economics, or in any other social science, or in any science, can ever be proven true. If you had a bottomless pit full of money, however, you wouldn't have to make any choices. The Ten Principles of Economics offer an overview of how people make decisions, interact with each other and how the economy works as a whole. The choices we confront as a result of scarcity raise three sets of issues. There is a choice to be made between different allocations and these lead to different outcomes. How does scarcity force people to make economic choices? You face choices about how to spend that money. A requirement that aluminum used in cars be made from recycled materials will raise the price of automobiles. How might you test each of the following hypotheses? Resources are not always dollars and cents – time, skill and land are all resources. Economists have traditionally argued that undergraduate work in economics serves as excellent preparation for law school. But our wants, our desires for the things that we can produce with those resources, are unlimited. Certainly, we observe that more people wear shorts when the weather is warm. In economics, a choice is a decision someone must make about what to do with limited resources, according to Economics Wisconsin, a guide for social studies teachers. It is important to see the distinctions between these broad areas of study. A theory that has been subjected to even more testing and that has won virtually universal acceptance. It is social because it involves people and their behavior. is the branch of economics that focuses on the impact of choices on the total, or aggregate, level of economic activity. Top Skills Economics Majors Have Economics majors learn to gather, organize, and interpret data, using mathematical formulas and statistics to make calculations. Conflicts have already arisen over the allocation of orbital slots for communications satellites. Another testable assertion is a statement of fact, such as “It is raining outside” or “Microsoft is the largest producer of operating systems for personal computers in the world.” Like hypotheses, such assertions can be demonstrated to be false. Consumption because people have different values, normative statements, such disagreements can ultimately resolved. Preserving the land as a “ micro ” or as a Group did well... 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