Module Nine, Activity One

Needs and Wants

Economics is the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

As economists use the terms:

  • Goods are material things such as food and clothes which humans use as individuals or groups.
  • Services are things that human beings do to assist other people. Education and health care are examples of services that we use on a regular basis.

Human beings, as individuals and as groups, could not exist without goods and services produced by themselves or by others. Economists say that goods and services are produced because they meet either needs or wantsNeeds reflect things that humans have to have in order to live. Food, safe water, housing, education, and health care are examples of basic needs. Wants are desires that can be satisfied by goods and services. Video games, music CDs, and eating at a fancy restaurant are examples of economic wants.

For some individuals, their primary economic concern is with meeting basic needs for survival, while other individuals, whose basic needs have been met, are more concerned with fulfilling their wants. This is also true for national economies. In the richest countries, there are people who struggle to meet their basic needs, but the focus of the national economy is to meet the increasing wants of individuals and groups. In poorer countries, the economies have to focus more on meeting basic needs.

Your teacher will distribute two tables, shown below, for you to complete. On the first table please make lists of your wants and needs for goods and services.

On the second table please make lists of wants and needs of a young person your age in any place you select in Africa. Remember that just like the United States, there is diversity in Africa so the lists you construct may not be appropriate for all of Africa.

My Wants and Needs

Wants and Needs Table

Wants and Needs in Africa

Wants and Needs Table

Go on to Activity Two or go to one of the other activities in this module