… a core term used in Economic Analysis and Atlas102


The Economist defines microeconomics as the study of the individual pieces that together make an economy.

The Economist goes on to say:

“Microeconomics considers issues such as how households reach decisions about consumption and saving, how firms set a price for their output, whether privatization improves efficiency, whether a particular market has enough competition in it and how the market for labour works.”

In his article in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics (reference below), Arnold Harberger writes:

“Until the so-called Keynesian revolution of the late 1930s and 1940s, the two main parts of economic theory were typically labeled “monetary theory” and “price theory.” Today, the corresponding dichotomy is between “macroeconomics” and “microeconomics.” The motivating force for the change came from the macro side, with modern macroeconomics being far more explicit than old-fashioned monetary theory about fluctuations in income and employment (as well as the price level). In contrast, no revolution separates today’s microeconomics from old-fashioned price theory; one evolved from the other naturally and without significant controversy.

“The strength of microeconomics comes from the simplicity of its underlying structure and its close touch with the real world. In a nutshell, microeconomics has to do with supply and demand, and with the way they interact in various markets. Microeconomic analysis moves easily and painlessly from one topic to another and lies at the center of most of the recognized subfields of economics. Labor economics, for example, is built largely on the analysis of the supply and demand for labor of different types. The field of industrial organization deals with the different mechanisms (monopoly, cartels, different types of competitive behavior) by which goods and services are sold. International economics worries about the demand and supply of individual traded commodities, as well as of a country’s exports and imports taken as a whole, and the consequent demand for and supply of foreign exchange. Agricultural economics deals with the demand and supply of agricultural products and of farmland, farm labor, and the other factors of production involved in agriculture.

“Public finance … looks at how the government enters the scene. Traditionally, its focus was on taxes, which automatically introduce “wedges” (differences between the price the buyer pays and the price the seller receives) and cause inefficiency. More recently, public finance has reached into the expenditure side as well, attempting to analyze (and sometimes actually to measure) the costs and benefits of various government outlays and programs.

“Applied welfare economics is the fruition of microeconomics. It deals with the costs and benefits of just about anything – government projects, taxes on commodities, taxes on factors of production (corporation income taxes, payroll taxes), agricultural programs (like price supports and acreage controls), tariffs on imports, foreign exchange controls, various forms of industrial organization (like monopoly and oligopoly), and various aspects of labor market behavior (like minimum wages, the monopoly power of labor unions, and so on).

“It is hard to imagine a basic course in microeconomics failing to include numerous cases and examples drawn from all of the fields listed above. This is because microeconomics is so basic. It represents the trunk of the tree from which all the listed subfields have branched.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

The Study of Economics (core topic) in Economic Analysis and Atlas102 Economic Analysis.


The Economist, Economics A-Z, at http://www.economist.com/economics-a-to-z/m#node-21529823, accessed 30 April 2016.

Arnold Harberger, Microeconomics, The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, at http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Microeconomics.html#abouttheauthor, accessed 3 May 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 3 May 2016.