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Economic Wants

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Economic wants are desires that can be satisfied by consuming a good, service, or leisure activity. Because people have differing economic wants, they purchase a wide variety of goods and services or choose to “consume” differing amounts of leisure time.

People also have different levels of income to purchase economic wants. Obviously, people with higher levels of income can purchase more goods and services or can take more leisure time. Regardless of their income, however, all people must choose to satisfy some wants, but not others.

The desire for more goods, services, or leisure time is not necessarily “greedy.” People often want more so they can give more to others in need; provide a better life for themselves, their children, or aged parents; or make their neighborhoods more beautiful.

In many elementary textbooks, a distinction is often made between wants and needs. However, the concept of needs can be very subjective, and economists typically lump both terms together under the general category of wants.

Teaching Tips


Create a collage representing goods and/or services that families want.

Using modeling clay, make examples of goods and services that satisfy the economic wants of people.

Make a large “wishing well” bulletin board entitled, “Things That People Want.” Have students classify the things they want as goods or services.


List and discuss things that people want that are used to help other people or their community (e.g. food to help people in need, trees to make a city more beautiful).


Take a walking tour around your school or community identifying goods and services that people want.

Related Lessons

Herschel’s World of Economics DVD

  • Lesson 1: Goods and Services

Econ Songs

Content Standards

Standard 1 – Scarcity

Students will understand that: Productive resources are limited. Therefore, people cannot have all the goods and services they want; as a result, they must choose some things and give up others.