Cost and Industry Structure

Read the Introduction in Chapter 7 and click through to Section 7.1. and 7.2 to learn about the short-run analysis in production. Pay attention to the difference between accounting and economic profit. Also, from section 7.2, pay special attention to how fixed costs that do not change in the short-run affect average total cost and average variable costs.

The Structure of Costs in the Short Run

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Analyze short-run costs as influenced by total cost, fixed cost, variable cost, marginal cost, and average cost.
  • Calculate average profit
  • Evaluate patterns of costs to determine potential profit

The cost of producing a firm's output depends on how much labor and physical capital the firm uses. A list of the costs involved in producing cars will look very different from the costs involved in producing computer software or haircuts or fast-food meals. However, the cost structure of all firms can be broken down into some common underlying patterns. When a firm looks at its total costs of production in the short run, a useful starting point is to divide total costs into two categories: fixed costs that cannot be changed in the short run and variable costs that can be changed.