March 21, 2018 

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UTILITY MAXIMIZATION: The process or goal of obtaining the highest level of utility from the consumption or use of goods and services. This is based on the seemingly obvious presumption that people prefer more to less, which is intimately tied to the unlimited wants and needs aspect of scarcity. In other words, because people have unlimited wants and needs, because they always have unfulfilled wants or needs, satisfying these wants and needs is a desirable thing to do.

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A curve that graphically represents the relation between average factor cost incurred by a perfectly competitive firm for employing an input and the quantity of input used. Because average factor cost is essentially the price of the input, the average factor cost curve is also the supply curve for the input. The average factor cost curve for a perfectly competitive firm with no market control is horizontal. The average revenue curve for a firm with market control is positively sloped.
Perfect competition is a market structure with a large number of small participants (buyers and sellers). The good exchanged in the market is identical, regardless of who sells or who buys. Participants have perfect knowledge and perfect mobility into and out of the market. These conditions mean perfectly competitive buyers are price takers, they have no market control and must pay the going market price for all inputs bought.

The average factor cost curve reflects the degree of market control held by a firm. For a perfectly competitive firm with no market control, the average factor cost curve is a horizontal line. For firms with market control, especially monopsony, the average factor cost curve is positively sloped.

Average Factor Cost Curve,
Perfect Competition
Average Factor Cost Curve, Perfect Competition
A typical average factor cost for perfect competition is displayed in the exhibit to the right. This particular average factor cost curve is that for labor hired by Maggie's Macrame Shoppe. Maggie's Macrame Shoppe is one of thousands of small retail stores in the greater Shady Valley metropolitan area that hires labor with identical skills. As such, Maggie pays the going wage for labor.

The vertical axis measures average factor cost and the horizontal axis measures the quantity of input (workers). Although quantity on this particular graph stops at 10 workers, the nature of perfect competition indicates it could easily go higher.

First and foremost, the average factor cost curve is horizontal at the going factor price of $10. This indicates that if Maggie hires 1 worker, then she pays an average factor cost of $10. Alternatively, if she hires 10 workers, then she pays an average factor cost of $10. Should she hire 100 workers, then she might move well beyond the graph, but she pays an average factor cost of $10.

The "curve" is actually a "straight line" because Maggie is a price taker in the labor market. She pays $10 for each worker whether she hires 1 worker or 10 workers or 100 workers. The constant price is what makes Maggie's average factor cost curve a straight line, and which indicates that Maggie has no market control.


Recommended Citation:

AVERAGE FACTOR COST CURVE, PERFECT COMPETITION, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia,, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2018. [Accessed: March 21, 2018].

Check Out These Related Terms...

     | average factor cost curve | average factor cost curve, monopsony | total factor cost | total factor cost curve | marginal factor cost | marginal factor cost curve | total cost | total product | average factor cost, perfect competition | average factor cost, monopsony |

Or For A Little Background...

     | market structures | perfect competition | perfect competition characteristics | perfect competition and demand | monopsony | oligopsony | monopsonistic competition | supply | supply price | law of supply | efficiency |

And For Further Study...

     | factor market analysis | short-run production analysis | marginal factor cost and average factor cost | factor supply | factor supply curve | supply by a firm | supply to a firm | mobility |

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