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Why All the Graphs in Economics?


On This Site

• Want vs. Need: Basic Economics
• 
Supply and Demand: Basic Economics
• 
Basic Economics: Goods and Services
• 
Basic Economics: Scarcity and Choices
• 
Basic Economics:
Interdependence
• 
Basic Economics: Inflation
• 
Basic Economics:
The Stock Market

Economics

Economics can be a complicated subject. You have to know about money and time and business and supply and demand and wants and needs and all kinds of other stuff. You have to be able to read charts and graphs and tables and ... wait a minute. Why all the charts and graphs? Why does Economics get to have all those tables and graphs and charts? Why doesn't History or Civics or Geography get to have all that fun, too?

Well, that's a good question. You could probably ask a dozen different economists and social studies teachers, and you'd get a bunch of different answers.

The answer to that question that seems to make the most sense is this one: Economics needs lots of charts and graphs and tables because Economics uses more numbers and tracks more trends than other social studies subjects.

Geography has the map and certain graphs, but they usually show things like elevation and population. (Yes, Geography has lots of population graphs; and yes, those graphs show trends. But Economics has graphs for everything.)

Civics might have tables and charts showing breakdowns of different types of governments or who serves in what part of a government.

History has the timeline, right? But that's just a line, going in one direction, with a bunch of dates and events marked on it. History is also full of charts and graphs, but Economics still has it beat.

Economics, with its dependence on endlessly comparing present-day numbers to month-ago numbers, needs a way to show that data other than just listing numbers in lines of type. And because many people can digest information more easily if they see it on a graph, Economics can accommodate them by showing graphs and tables and charts that put a visual face on what is essentially a bunch of numbers.

And the things economists study (like money, goods and services, supply and demand, interdependence, scarcity and choices, the stock market, and other business-related items) naturally lend themselves to graphic display.

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday