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Was the Rosetta comet landing mission worth the cost?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One of the jobs of an economist is to ask this question daily. What else might these resources have been spent on? This concept is known as opportunity cost.

Perhaps the mission can be justified in cost/benefit terms. But maybe it shouldn’t have to.

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Is Batman a good economist?

We all know Batman, the superhero alter-ego of Bruce Wayne. Mr Wayne is the heir to a huge fortune which he uses in his quest to catch the crooks of Gotham City. But could Bruce use a few economics lessons? Is he making best use of resources? Might he achieve more if he put his resources into other uses?

Ask yourself these questions:

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Trick or Treat Economics Challenge

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A seasonal quiz challenge for your economics students fresh out of the tutor2u Learning Lab.

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Local Schools policy drives inequality in the UK

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I love a story that really can resonate with students and get them 'irked'.  It struck me yesterday that reading about a recent Bristol University research paper that claims that school admission policies lead to greater inequality might strike a chord with some young people.

The study suggests that the common policy in the UK of prioritizing admission places in primary and secondary schools based upon how close a student lives to that school continues a cycle of inequality.  The argument is that, wealthier people are more able to afford to move to areas with higher performing schools and so are more inclined to do so.  People without that facility have less choice in where to send their children and may have to stick with local schools despite their relative poor performance.  So the cycle continues ..... poorer people receive a poorer quality education and are therefore less equipped to get the necessary qualifications to earn higher wages.

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Lesson Activity - Categorise Factor Inputs in the Focus Circle

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Here is another ready-to-use edition of our thinking-skills resource Focus Circle which provides an engaging way to teach factor inputs.

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What Gangnam Style represents in opportunity cost terms

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Here’s a light-hearted one! What could we have had instead of 2 billion views of Gangnam Style?The Economist ponders that question.

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Unit 2 Macro: PPP - What $1 Buys in China

Sunday, May 18, 2014

This short World Bank info-video looks at what $1 buys in China. In China, over 98 million people live on less than 6.3 yuan ($1) per day. 

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Unit 1 Micro: Production Possibility Frontier

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A production possibility frontier (PPF) shows the maximum possible output combinations of two goods or services an economy can achieve when all resources are fully and efficiently employed

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Unit 1 Micro: Factors of Production

There are only a finite number of workers, machines, acres of land and reserves of oil and other natural resources on the earth. Because most resources are finite, we cannot produce an unlimited number of different goods and services. Indeed by supplying more for an ever-growing and richer population we are in danger of destroying the natural resources of the planet.

read more...»

Unit 1 Micro: Economic Systems

An economic system is a network of organisations used by a society to resolve the basic problem of what, how much, how and for whom to produce.

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Unit 1 Micro: Opportunity Cost

In economics, “there is no such thing as a free lunch!” Even if we are not asked to pay money for something, scarce resources are used up in production and there is an opportunity cost involved.

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AS Macro - inflation, unemployment and the Misery Index

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just as I am in the midst of teaching my AS students about macroeconomic indicators, and focusing on inflation and unemployment, up pops this piece by Linda Yueh about the latest data on those two indicators this week, and the Misery Index.

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Positive and Normative concepts - “Fairness”

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Are the government’s economic policies fair?

Is that a testable, positive economic statement? You might be considering this question at the very start of an economics course, or you might be further on, and carefully considering issues surrounding inequality in the distribution of income and wealth.

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Unit 1 micro - excess supply of lobsters in the US

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Too much lobster might sound like a problem which would be quite pleasant to deal with, but it is hitting the fishermen of the US hard, as this video shows. It could be a useful piece of application for unit 1 in teaching the problems of excess supply, and could be accompanied by questions such as:

Draw a graph to show what has happened to the equilibrium price for lobsters in the US

What is the shape of the supply curve on each day, when the fishermen land their catch?

How does the problem differ for lobster fishermen who fish in the warmer waters, and those who fish in the colder waters 'further west'?

What options do those fishermen have, in order to improve their level of income?

For later in the course:
What forms of government intervention might help to improve the level of income for the fishermen?

Unit 1 Micro: Scarcity and Abundance

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

AS economics student Ed Hardy offers his interpretation of this question: “Within a few years the common problems we associate with scarcity will be a thing of the past.” Do you agree?

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Deflating GDP - what is the true figure?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Many of us will be teaching AS students about the methods of calculating GDP at the moment, and then about the use of inflation figures to calculate Real GDP. The Edexcel unit 2 paper this summer featured a question about GDP estimates, which indicated that it is worth spending a bit of time examining how and why the initial release of GDP figures is adjusted over time, as more accurate data becomes available, and also the use of the GDP deflator.

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Revision Presentation - GDP as a measure of Economic Growth and Standard of Living

Sunday, September 22, 2013

This revision presentation provides an introduction to the concept of GDP as a measure of economic growth and an indicator of the standard of living.

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Measuring growth - alternative signs of recovery

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How do we really know whether the economy is recovering? Measuring the change in GDP is all very well, but it is subject to significant problems - the figures are subject to alterations over time as data is refined, they have to be adjusted by the GDP deflator, and even after all that, they don't tell us anything about people's sense of well-being, or the distribution of income.

So here is a challenge for your students: what alternative indicators of recovery could they devise? Some suggestions to set them off might include David Smith's skip index (see the final section of his blog entry here), Alan Greenspan's underpants index, which features in this NY Times article, the height of women's hemlines, the ease of booking a restaurant table on a Wednesday night..... how imaginative can your students be?

The Today programme on Radio 4 featured a 4-minute discussion on the matter yesterday, and the clip is available as a download here, although sadly only until Friday 27th Sept.

Introduction to Micro: UK Housing Shortage

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

As part of our introduction to micro economics we have been looking at the shortage of housing in the UK. The chronic shortage of affordable and suitable housing raises many micro (and macro) issues and I find it a good example of an issue where different policy measures can be looked at in a non-technical way as a path into supply and demand analysis. It also covers the ground with topics such as scarcity, changing needs and wants, affordability, cost-benefit principles, opportunity cost and production possibilities.

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Economics at the Movies - The Cola Road Documentary

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For years, a mystery has baffled visitors to developing countries: Coca-Cola is everywhere, but basic medicines are not. This year, Zambia has become the first African country to embrace a trial of the ColaLife concept. ColaLife aims to use Coca-Cola’s distribution model to deliver life-saving medicines to far-flung, rural communities

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Manchester’s biggest tourist attraction to close?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

This morning's news stories include an implied threat to close MOSI (The Museum of Science and Industry) in Manchester, in order to keep the Science Museum in London open.

Should museums charge admissions fees or not? Is a museum a merit good or not? If entry is free, are you tempted to avoid placing money in the transparent collection box as you go in? If is free, how should the museum fund its activities - encouraging donations, marketing guidebooks, souvenirs, themed gifts, or reliance on government grants? This begs questions about how a government allocates scarce funds? 

Florence's Uffizi Gallery does not charge children or pensioners, amongst others. Can you identify which museums have more price inelastic demand, and face a smaller drop in visitor numbers should charging be reintroduced? Why would visitors pay €18 to climb Pisa's famous leaning tower?

Bear in mind that AQA had set a question on this topic in 2004. "Using the data and your economic knowledge, assess the case for and against providing free entry to museums."

MOSI is supposed to be one of Manchester's biggest visitor attractions, but would there be a negative multiplier effect if it closed? Should the cultural heritage be preserved? This clip from Yes Minister helps focus a debate.

Teaching Resource: The Curse of Opportunity Island

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Curse of Opportunity Island is a team-based PowerPoint game where students compete to take resources from a fictitious island. As they do so, they learn about the issue of efficient use of scarce resources.

Opportunity Island is designed to be used early in the curriculum, assuming that the teacher has covered the concepts of the Basic Economic problem, scarcity and opportunity cost.

This resource is provided to all delegates attending WOW! Economics 2013 and may also be purchased separately from our online store.

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Onze helden zijn terug! Our heroes are back!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has reopened its doors to the public after a 10 year closure for rebuilding. It's most famous exhibit is "Nachten Watchen"  or "The Night Watch" by RembrandtThis short clip Onze helden zijn terug! celebrates the rejuvenation of The Museum.

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Revision Quiz: AS Economics: Supply & Demand (1)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

10 revision questions here (MCQs) on the basics of supply and demand.

Launch Revision Quiz: AS Economics: Supply & Demand (1)

Revision Quiz: AS Economics: PPF & Division of Labour (1)

Try this new revision quiz which has 10 multiple choice questions on the Production Possibility Frontier and the Division of Labour

Launch Revision Quiz: AS Economics: PPF & Division of Labour (1)

Revision Quiz: AS Economics: Basic Economic Problem (1)

This revision quiz has 10 multiple choice questions testing knowledge and understanding of the basic economic problem:

Launch Revision Quiz: AS Economics: Basic Economic Problem (1)

Unit 1 Micro: Video Examples of the Division of Labour

Saturday, February 09, 2013

We will put together some visual resources here on the division of labour in action! Click below to access them.

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Unit 1 Micro: Key Term Glossary - Markets and Market Failure

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

An updated glossary of key terms for the Unit 1 Economics paper

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60 Second Adventures in Economics - The Principle of Comparative Advantage

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Another core introductory concept beautifully described here by the OU - comparative advantage. David Ricardo's famous economic model, predicts that if there are just two countries and two products both can be better off if they specialise and trade in the thing they're relatively best at.

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60 Second Adventures in Economics - The Paradox of Thrift

Another superb 60 second video from the OU which introduces the concept of the paradox of thrift. The Paradox of Thrift suggests that while it may be wise for an individual to save money when income is low and job prospects are precarious, it could be collectively disastrous if everyone is thrifty together. read more...»

60 Second Adventures in Economics - The Invisible Hand

In this superb new series of bitesized 60 second videos, David Mitchell introduces Adam Smith, used the term The Invisible Hand to describe the self-regulating nature of the market place - a core concept for so-called free-marketeers.

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Unit 1 Micro: Positive and Normative Statements

Monday, September 10, 2012

Whenever you are reading articles on current affairs it is important to be able to distinguish between objective and subjective statements.

Often, a person writing an article has a particular argument to make and will include subjective statements about what ought to be or what should be happening. Their articles carry value judgements; they are trying to persuade you of the particular merits or demerits of a policy decision. These articles may be wholly or partially lacking in objectivity.

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A Sweet Way to Introduce Economics

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A great way to introduce Economics as a subject, particularly to those who have never studied it before, is to use the sweets demonstration. It goes like this...

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Unit 1 Micro: Child Poverty 2012 - It Shouldn’t Happen Here

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

In an important new report, Save the Children has highlighted the rising scale and intensity of poverty facing millions of children living in Britain's poorest families. Rising food prices,sharp increases in property rent, fewer employment opportunities and steep hikes in energy bills are just three of the factors that have affected hundreds of thousands of Britain's most vulnerable households. In the United States food stamps are required by millions. In Britain we are seeing a rapid expansion of and demand for food banks  provided by charities to offer assistance to families who live hand-to-mouth for weeks and months on end.

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Unit 4 Macro: World Income Groups - 2012 Classification

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

As of 1 July 2012, the World Bank income classifications by GNI per capita are as follows:

• Low income: $1,025 or less
• Lower middle income: $1,026 to $4,035
• Upper middle income: $4,036 to $12,475
• High income: $12,476 or more

Of the 192 member states of the United Nations, only 52 are currently classified as high-income countries. In other words, 140 countries (73 per cent) are still considered developing economies.

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Unit 2 Macro: Human Development Index (HDI)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Human Development Index (HDI) forms part of the annual human development report and is a composite measure of economic and social welfare that has three main components. 

At its most basic the HDI focuses on longevity, basic education and minimal income and progress made by countries in improving these three outcomes. 

The inclusion of education and health indicators is a sign of successful government policies in providing access to important merit goods such as health care, sanitation and education. 

Click here for the World Human Development Map

1.Knowledge: First an educational component made up of two statistics – mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling

2.Long and healthy life: Second a life expectancy component is calculated using a minimum value for life expectancy of 25 years and maximum value of 85 years

3.A decent standard of living: The final element is gross national income (GNI) per capita adjusted to purchasing power parity standard (PPP)

“Human development is the expansion of people’s freedom to live long, healthy and creative lives; to advance other goals they have reason to value; and to engage actively in shaping development equitably and sustainably on a shared planet. People are both the beneficiaries and the drivers of human development, as individuals and in groups” Source: HDR Report, November 2010

HDI Indicator Gateway

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Unit 1 Micro: Capital used to Build Cross Rail

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The tunnelling equipment involved in CrossRail - Europe’s biggest civil construction project - is immense in every way! This BBC news video of the earth cutting machinery is a brilliant visual to use when teaching economies of scale or introducing the concept of physical capital! The machinery is made in Germany naturally!

Unit 1 Micro: Empty Housing and Economic Efficiency

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Housing Starts

Channel 4 recently focused on the causes and effects of the hundreds of thousands of empty homes in the United Kingdom. Why is it given persistent shortages of affordable housing that perhaps a million homes lie empty and unused whilst an estimated two million families are in severe housing needs. New housebuilding has collapsed and in Britain we are building 100,000 fewer new houses every year than we need just to keep up with the changing mix of households and demographic change.

An interesting exercise is to show students some of the Channel 4 Campaign videos and then get them to put together policy ideas as to how to reduce the volume of empty homes and reduce the length of housing waiting lists.

Links to some of the Channel 4 videos can be accessed below:

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Economics at the Movies: In Time

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This weekend I saw this Justin Timberlake movie, In Time, which has quite an original concept – that time is a currency. The plot revolves around the idea that we all have a limited amount of time to live, but that same time is the currency we earn by working and then used to purchase consumption such as ‘4 minutes for a cup of coffee’.

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Economics on YouTube

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A useful clip for AS micro: barter economies. Or, alternatively, for A2 micro: perfect price discrimination.

Watch it here

The Principles of Economics - translated…...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Many thanks to one of my students from last year (thank you, Henry!) who has just attended his first undergraduate Economics lecture and enjoyed this YouTube clip. It shows Yoram Bauman, self-appointed Stand-up Economist, making a presentation to the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) in 2007, in which he translates the Ten Principles of Economics.

Five minutes of good fun, at the expense of economists who take themselves too seriously, which you and your students might enjoy as a contrast to the gloom of impending meltdown - although I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun of their first lecture at university.

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Unit 1 Micro: Sleep, Money, Happiness and Choices!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Autumn is arriving here in the UK. I cannot have been alone in finding it tough to drag myself out of bed on Friday morning to teach at the end of a tiring week. The marginal utility of an extra hour under a comfy duvet was so appealing, fortunately so too was the prospect of discussing the Greek debt crisis! Here is an interesting choice to put in front of your students - sure to prompt discussion.

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Unit 1 Micro: Division of Labour

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The division of labour occurs where production is broken down into many separate tasks. Division of labour raises output per person as people become proficient through constant repetition of a task – “learning by doing”. This gain in productivity helps to lower cost per unit and ought to lead to lower prices for consumers. But there are obvious limits to the division of labour.

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Study Note - The Basic Economic Problem: Scarcity and Choice

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It is often said that the central purpose of economic activity is the production of goods and services to satisfy our changing needs and wants.

  • The basic economic problem is about scarcity and choice. Every society has to decide:
  • What goods and services to produce: Does the economy uses its resources to operate more hospitals or hotels? Do we make more iPhones and iPads or double-espressos? Does the National Health Service provide free IVF treatment for childless couples?
  • How best to produce goods and services: What is the best use of our scarce resources? Should school playing fields be sold off to provide more land for affordable housing? Should coal be produced in the UK or is it best imported from other countries?
  • Who is to receive goods and services: Who will get expensive hospital treatment - and who not? Should there be a minimum wage? If so, at what level should it be set?

  • read more...»

    Study Note - Economic Systems

    Economic Systems

    An economic system is a network of organisations used by a society to resolve the basic problem of what, how much, how and for whom to produce.

    read more...»

    Study Note - Finite Resources and Sustainability

    There are only a finite - or limited - number of workers, machines, acres of land and reserves of oil and other natural resources on the earth.  Because most resources are finite, we cannot produce an unlimited number of different goods and services. Indeed by supplying more for an ever-growing and richer population we are in danger of destroying the natural resources of the planet.

    read more...»

    Starter Activity: Health Economics

    Thursday, September 01, 2011

    This is a follow-up blog to Ben Cahill’s superb idea for a first lesson in economics focusing on making tough choices about resource use with a kidney dialysis machine. See: An activity for the first Economics lesson of the year!

    I too will be using health care economics as a starter activity with my AS micro groups this year. I was interested in finding out some of the assumed costs of different health care treatments offered by the NHS and my research took me to published cost/price lists used by NHS Scotland. Drawing on a detailed spreadsheet I selected the following:

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    Unit 1 Micro: Opportunity Cost -

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    A hat tip to John Wilson from New Zealand for spotting this superb article which looks at smarter consumer spending and using opportunity cost as a concept to put some of our many choice in context. Some great examples here that might be used at the start of an AS Micro course.

    Theory Thursdays! Interesting indices

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Most students will now have met indices in some shape or form in their A-level course, probably in relation to the Consumer Price Index. This extension activity helps students to develop their understanding of the construction of indices in general. As a starting point, you may want to ask your students to contribute towards the latest Economist Big Mac Index, which looks at the price of a Big Mac in various cities around the world in order to work out whether exchange rates are over- or under- valued as well as the cost of living in various countries. The Economist has asked people around the world to go into their local McDonald’s and then post the price of a Big Mac onto their online forum - you can do this here.

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    Lesson Worksheet - Scarcity and Choice

    Sunday, August 08, 2010

    Here is an mcq-based worksheet on the basics of scarcity and choice.

    Download lesson worksheet on scarcity and choice

    Download test answer sheet

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