A High School Economics Guide

Supplementary resources for high school students

Definitions and Basics

Consumer, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Anne H. Soukhanov, ed., from GoogleBooks.com.


  • 1. One that consumes, especially one that acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership rather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing.
  • 2. A heterotrophic organism that ingests other organisms or organic matter in a food chain.

Consumers are powerful in a market economy, and the economic choices of consumers in the marketplace drive the behavior of producers. See Consumers Video and Quiz at EconEdLink.

We are each both consumers and producers. See this lesson plan for lower grades, We Are Consumers and Producers at EconEdLink.


In the News and Examples

Advertising, from the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics

Economic analysis of advertising dates to the thirties and forties, when critics attacked it as a monopolistic and wasteful practice. Defenders soon emerged who argued that advertising promotes competition and lowers the cost of providing information to consumers and distributing goods. Today, most economists side with the defenders most of the time….

While persuasion and the creation of brand loyalty are often emphasized in discussions of advertising, economists tend to emphasize other, perhaps more important, functions. The rise of the self-service store, for example, was aided by consumer knowledge of branded goods. Before the advent of advertising, customers relied on knowledgeable shopkeepers in selecting products, which often were unbranded. Today, consumer familiarity with branded products is one factor that makes it possible for far fewer retail employees to serve the same number of customers.

Consumer Protection from the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics

When you buy a good or service, you rarely have perfect knowledge of its quality and safety. You are justifiably concerned about getting “ripped off.” Thus the need for consumer protection.

Economic activity flourishes when consumers can trust producers, but the consumer must have grounds for trust. Consumers value, then, not only quality and safety, but also the assurance of quality and safety. Trust depends on assurance.

Everyday, you make tons of decisions about consumption. Your choices about what and how much of a good to buy are influenced by the laws of supply and demand. These choices are nearly endless. See Introduction to Consumer Choice at Marginal Revolution University.


A Little History: Primary Sources and References


Advanced Resources

To what extent do people act as consumers within the framework of government transfer payment programs? Linda Gorman, Who Attends You When You Are Ill? Attendant Services Under Consumer-directed Health Care. June 6, 2011.

Properly aligning incentives means that the people spending the money must be encouraged to voluntarily economize on their use of health care by being subjected to a spending constraint that requires them to choose between medical care and other goods. They must also be free to negotiate for those services as they see fit. In the Medicaid experiments described below, people are typically given a budget for buying the care that Medicaid officials think their physical condition warrants and then are given the freedom to negotiate the price and bundle of services that best fit their circumstances. Because they have more control over how the money is spent and can get more care if they spend it wisely, they are able to buy services that better fit their health needs and living conditions. Their health improves, thus reducing the cost of providing them with medical care.

To earn a profit, businesses must increase your “consumer surplus” by giving you better products or charging you less money. See Consumer Surplus at LearnLiberty.

Related Topics


Opportunity Cost

Trade, Exchange and Interdependence

Barriers to Trade


Saving and Investing

Human Capital