IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Do Economists Recognize an Opportunity Cost When They See One? A Dismal Performance or an Arbitrary Concept?

Listed author(s):
  • Joel Potter


    (North Georgia College & State University, 124 Newton Oakes Center, Dahlonega, GA 30597, USA)

  • Shane Sanders


    (Western Illinois University, 429 Stipes Hall, Macomb, IL 61455 corresponding author)

Ferraro and Taylor (2005) asked 199 professional economists a multiple-choice question about opportunity cost. Given that only 21.6% answered “correctly,” they conclude that professional understanding of the concept is “dismal.” We challenge this critique of the profession. Specifically, we allow for alternative opportunity cost accounting methodologies—one of which is derived from the term's definition as found in Ferraro and Taylor— and rely on the conventional relationship between willingness to pay and substitute goods to demonstrate that every answer to the multiple-choice question is defensible. The Ferraro and Taylor survey question suggests difficulties in framing an opportunity cost accounting question, as well as a lack of coordination in opportunity cost accounting methodology. In scope and logic, we conclude that the survey question does not, however, succeed in measuring professional understanding of opportunity cost. A discussion follows as to the concept's appropriate role in the classroom.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Article provided by Southern Economic Association in its journal Southern Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 79 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (October)
Pages: 248-256

in new window

Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:79:2:y:2012:p:248-256
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:79:2:y:2012:p:248-256. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Laura Razzolini)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.