The Inputs for Romantic Partners

Macmillan Employee
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As we all know, the theory of production can be applied to any production process, regardless of whether the output is sold in the market.  For instance, many of us use the production function for course performance to study economics education.  Using a noncommercial example to present the theory of production for the first time to students have many benefits: 1) students see how economics apply to their daily lives, and 2) students see how rules of production are independent of input costs.

By far the most popular example I use in my class of noncommercial production is the production function for romantic partners. Since many of my students are usually engage in that production as they take my course, they can immediately identify with the case study.  So, here is a question I use to spark the discussion.

Which of the following is the most Fixed input of in your production of romantic partners?

a)    your chiseled abs

b)    your cool haircut

c)    your nice dancing skills

d)    your pick-up line

The idea here is for students to see that these inputs move from more fixed (abs) to more variable (pick-up line).  But, the point is not necessarily for students to identify the “best” answer, but more to see how production works and applies to their daily life.

I usually present this as a clicker question at the beginning of the class; let students vote once, and then allow them to think-pair-share and the vote again.  If I had assigned the question before class (as one could do using a system like FlipItecon.com), I could show some sample answers from students.  This allow the instructor to get the most of out of the classroom activity.

Here are some of the best I have received from students over the years.

For (a):

“You can change the other things pretty quickly but you have to build abs over time.”

For (c):

“dancing skills take long to develop”.

For (d):

“my abs may fade, my hair may fall out, my body may become crippled, but i can always use my wit!”

This student is clearly mixing the definition of a fixed input, so this wrong answer presents an excellent teaching moment for me.

And, perhaps the best one of all:

“You've got the curves to supply my demand.”

I encourage you to use this, or any example that allow students to see how relevant economics is to their daily lives.