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Whatever the firm’s quantity of production, total revenue must exceed total costs if it is to earn a profit. As explored in the chapter Choice in a World of Scarcity , fixed costs are often sunk costs    that cannot be recouped. In thinking about what to do next, sunk costs should typically be ignored, since this spending has already been made and cannot be changed. However, variable costs can be changed, so they convey information about the firm’s ability to cut costs in the present and the extent to which costs will increase if production rises.

Why are total cost and average cost not on the same graph?

Total cost, fixed cost, and variable cost each reflect different aspects of the cost of production over the entire quantity of output being produced. These costs are measured in dollars. In contrast, marginal cost, average cost, and average variable cost are costs per unit. In the previous example, they are measured as cost per haircut. Thus, it would not make sense to put all of these numbers on the same graph, since they are measured in different units ($ versus $ per unit of output).

It would be as if the vertical axis measured two different things. In addition, as a practical matter, if they were on the same graph, the lines for marginal cost, average cost, and average variable cost would appear almost flat against the horizontal axis, compared to the values for total cost, fixed cost, and variable cost. Using the figures from the previous example, the total cost of producing 40 haircuts is $320. But the average cost is $320/40, or $8. If you graphed both total and average cost on the same axes, the average cost would hardly show.

Average cost tells a firm whether it can earn profits given the current price in the market. If we divide profit by the quantity of output produced we get average profit    , also known as the firm’s profit margin . Expanding the equation for profit gives:

average profit = profit quantity produced = total revenue – total cost quantity produced = total revenue quantity produced total cost quantity produced = average revenue – average cost

But note that:

average revenue = price × quantity produced quantity produced = price

Thus:

average profit = price – average cost

This is the firm’s profit margin . This definition implies that if the market price is above average cost, average profit, and thus total profit, will be positive; if price is below average cost, then profits will be negative.

The marginal cost of producing an additional unit can be compared with the marginal revenue gained by selling that additional unit to reveal whether the additional unit is adding to total profit—or not. Thus, marginal cost helps producers understand how profits would be affected by increasing or decreasing production.

A variety of cost patterns

The pattern of costs varies among industries and even among firms in the same industry. Some businesses have high fixed costs, but low marginal costs. Consider, for example, an Internet company that provides medical advice to customers. Such a company might be paid by consumers directly, or perhaps hospitals or healthcare practices might subscribe on behalf of their patients. Setting up the website, collecting the information, writing the content, and buying or leasing the computer space to handle the web traffic are all fixed costs that must be undertaken before the site can work. However, when the website is up and running, it can provide a high quantity of service with relatively low variable costs, like the cost of monitoring the system and updating the information. In this case, the total cost curve might start at a high level, because of the high fixed costs, but then might appear close to flat, up to a large quantity of output, reflecting the low variable costs of operation. If the website is popular, however, a large rise in the number of visitors will overwhelm the website, and increasing output further could require a purchase of additional computer space.

For other firms, fixed costs may be relatively low. For example, consider firms that rake leaves in the fall or shovel snow off sidewalks and driveways in the winter. For fixed costs, such firms may need little more than a car to transport workers to homes of customers and some rakes and shovels. Still other firms may find that diminishing marginal returns set in quite sharply. If a manufacturing plant tried to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, little time remains for routine maintenance of the equipment, and marginal costs can increase dramatically as the firm struggles to repair and replace overworked equipment.

Every firm can gain insight into its task of earning profits by dividing its total costs into fixed and variable costs, and then using these calculations as a basis for average total cost, average variable cost, and marginal cost. However, making a final decision about the profit-maximizing quantity to produce and the price to charge will require combining these perspectives on cost with an analysis of sales and revenue, which in turn requires looking at the market structure in which the firm finds itself. Before we turn to the analysis of market structure in other chapters, we will analyze the firm’s cost structure from a long-run perspective.

Key concepts and summary

In a short-run perspective, a firm’s total costs can be divided into fixed costs, which a firm must incur before producing any output, and variable costs, which the firm incurs in the act of producing. Fixed costs are sunk costs; that is, because they are in the past and cannot be altered, they should play no role in economic decisions about future production or pricing. Variable costs typically show diminishing marginal returns, so that the marginal cost of producing higher levels of output rises.

Marginal cost is calculated by taking the change in total cost (or the change in variable cost, which will be the same thing) and dividing it by the change in output, for each possible change in output. Marginal costs are typically rising. A firm can compare marginal cost to the additional revenue it gains from selling another unit to find out whether its marginal unit is adding to profit.

Average total cost is calculated by taking total cost and dividing by total output at each different level of output. Average costs are typically U-shaped on a graph. If a firm’s average cost of production is lower than the market price, a firm will be earning profits.

Average variable cost is calculated by taking variable cost and dividing by the total output at each level of output. Average variable costs are typically U-shaped. If a firm’s average variable cost of production is lower than the market price, then the firm would be earning profits if fixed costs are left out of the picture.

Problems

Return to [link] . What is the marginal gain in output from increasing the number of barbers from 4 to 5 and from 5 to 6? Does it continue the pattern of diminishing marginal returns?

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Compute the average total cost, average variable cost, and marginal cost of producing 60 and 72 haircuts. Draw the graph of the three curves between 60 and 72 haircuts.

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Questions & Answers

Pls where can I found PRICE CONTROL on this app
Samuel Reply
top left corner
JUDE
A situation in an economy with one producer but many consumers
Kabali Reply
What is the theory of population according to Malthus?
Kabali
What is the Malthusian population theory?
Kabali
The Malthusian theory of population state that, where there are means of substinence like food, human beings have the tendency to procreate (ie.give birth) without restraint (ie. control).
George
he stated that population unchecked grows at a geometric progression ie 1,2,4,8,16 while the means food subsistence grows at arithmetic progression ie 1,2,3,4,5---- he declared that population has the tendency to outstrip the means of subsistence
Fung
What is money?
Kabali
money is any commodity that act as a medium of exchange
Fung
money is medium of exchange which is use in taking goods and giving some of it's worth or money value
Madhu
what is a debit card and a credit card?
Milly
a debit card is a payment card used instead of cash while purchasing
Madhu
a credit card is a payment card issued to users to enable cardholder to pay a merchant for goods and services
Madhu
oky tanx
Milly
good
ABDUL
What is an inferior good.?
Kabali
what is monopoly
Richmond Reply
a market situation when there is only one seller of a product representing whole industry.
how
where one business is the dominant one in that market. It determines the market price as they are price makers. No entry, no competition.
karl
it is a market situation where is a single seller and many buyer hear the seller is the price maker the is no free entering and exit in this market
Fung
A situation in the economy where there is one producer and many consumers
Kabali
A market situation where there is one producer and many consumers.
Kabali
Balance of payments for 2018
Mahlatse Reply
what is monopoly and what is monopolaist
Javid Reply
what is the affect of rise in value of dollar ?
Shabana
monopoly"a single firm or company owns all or nearly all of the market for a given type of product or service "monopoly is a price maker ...barrier of entry ,non availability of close substitute.
Shabana
monopolistic competition or market is a situation where there are few or many firm producing identical but differentiated product .eg difference in advertisement ,packing etc
Shabana
monopolistic competition or market is a situation where there are few or many firm producing identical but differentiated product .eg difference in advertisement ,packing
jay
monopoly is a market situation ...where there is a single seller and large number of buyers deals with commodities having no close substitutes......here the sellers are price makers... there is restrictions in the entry and exit of new firms in this market structure....
lovely
what is money?
Hilary
money is a medium of exchange.....through which...commodities are bought and sold
lovely
money is a medium/means of exchange that generally accepted by law
Prince
What is tranfer earnings
Admire
what is savings income?
Limitles
transfer earning is the minimum income that a factor is willing to accept in an occupation,it is also call the supply price of a factor
Fung
what is envelope curve
Dharam
what is depreciation
Fung
depreciation means decrease in value of a assets due to normal wear or year ,means decrease in value of assets like a machine due to its daily use
ru
Refers to wear and tear of capital machinery
apule
what is meant by currency depreciation?
Shabana
an envelope curve is also call an umbrella curve it is any curve that is enclosed by being tangen t to a series of other curves
Fung
fall in the value of currency vis-a-vis any other currency usually $ due to marker forces is called currency depreciation. it is different from devaluation where in value of currency is deliberately reduced to improve BoT
mohammad
depreciation in its broad sense means loss in the value of fixed capital say a tractor due to i) normal wear and tear ii) normal rate of accidental damage iii) expected absolescence to meet this, Depereciation Reserve Fund is created it is calculated by firms on the basis of their experience.
mohammad
what is green revolution ?discuss the achievement of green revolution in India
Sweety Reply
green revolution is the third revolution of agricultural refers to a set of research and development of technology transfer initiative occuring between 1930s and the late 1960s that increased agricultural is called green revolution
Javid
the green revolution happened because to improve the agricultural sector towards adopting mordern methods and improvement of agricultural equipments
Madhu
what calculation for demand and supply
Amoo Reply
what is nationalisation
Awuni Reply
it is a process of converting private assets into public assets by undertaking the control of government or state authority
ru
yes
Emmanuel
so true
Violet
what are some the things that may lead to nationalisation
Fung
Over exploring of customers by the private individuals Also to make the nationalised organisation social reliable and accessible by all
Richard
feeling of one's is called nationalisation. unity among them self .
Madhu
anything which is widely acceptable as a medium of exchange
Shabana Reply
money ,currency
ru
Hello plz,what is the full mean of tertiary?
al Reply
tertiary also called philoshper
Waseem
tertiary means third..for example primary sector ,secondary and tertiary sector... means three number..
ru
ru 9ice tnk
al
your most welcome.
ru
tnz
al
what is money
Tettey
what is a bank
Walters
a financial institution which holds money for its clients ,which collect deposit and lend money at interest and trades generally in money...
Shabana
what is bankers draft ?kindly explain with example .
Shabana
money "anything which is widely acceptable as a medium of exchange"
Shabana
yes u ryt #shabana
Dar
difference between cost and price
Dar
Shallow definition
Adam
cost"the value of input that is the amount of money which is used to produce a good or service . price"an amount of money which has to b paid to buy something.
Shabana
Tertiary is an adjective(pre position) for stages or levels and refers to "top, final, full term ." ; Advanced.
Anderson
bank draft is a type of cheque which a person buy for to pay someone who is not willing to accept a personal cheque .
ru
tertiary sector is an providing any kind of services.
Madhu
primary sector is 'agriculture', secondary sector is ' industrial sector ,and the tertiary sector is ,' service sector' ,
Dharam
subana are you understand now the meaning of bank draft?
ru
what is golden- diamond paradox
Tammanna
what is occupational structure
Madhu Reply
occupational structure refers to the distribution of occupation on the basis of educational ,socoial ,income level in a society or economy
ru
no that is not a exact meaning
Madhu
than what is exact meaning
Dharam
It refers to also the what is the average income of the person
Madhu
what is deficit
Obiajunwa Reply
deficit = expenses > revenue
Waseem
yeah expenses over revenue results in deficit
Paulina
insufficiency
Anderson
What is What is Equilibrium
Bright Reply
from business point of view it is that point where business revanu are equal to its expenses.
ru
in economy where demand is equal to supply is called equalibrium
ru
Equilibrium in economics is where quantity demanded is equal to quantity supplied
Collins
what are the objectives of devaluation
Oyedun
how the government solve the problem of scarcity
SUNDAY Reply
how government solve the problem of scarcity
SUNDAY
by deciding the output limit for every industry and providing resources to these industries according to output limit .the problem can be solved
ru
and by controlling the activity of production like as a mixed economy this problem can be solved
ru
by proper planning to cater the needs of people, demand & supply process may prove helpful. and by imposing heavy import duty on the product to shift the demand towards available alternative sources.
Abida
changing the methods of production, and tax system
Khushal
In problems of scarcity government should adopt a plan or state budget, form a long term policy , deal with corruption , mobilise resources ,systems and monitor.
Anderson
by doing various plans or scheme and providing various kind of free or in less price to the needy people
Madhu
Plx anyone explain bankers draft by giving example.
Shabana
what is price elasticity of demand?
Asamoah Reply
price elasticity of demand is the percentage in quantity demanded of a good or service to the percentage change in its price.
Cobbina
Price elasticity of demand is a measure used in economics to show the responsiveness, or elasticity, of the quantity demanded of a good or service to a change in its price when nothing but the price changes.
TOHEEB
Price elasticity of Demand is a prepotionat change in the demand due to change in price of the goods and service
Dawal
what is monopoly and monopolistic?
KPAAKPA
Price elasticity of demand is the economy measure to show the responsiveness and change in price due to change in quantity.
Lomayani

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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