2.2 Circular Flow Model

A good model to start within economics is the Circular Flow Diagram (Fig 2.1). It pictures the economy as consisting of two groups—households and firms—that interact in two markets: the goods and services market in which firms sell and households buy and the labour market in which households sell labour to business firms or other employees.

Circular Flow Model
Figure 2.1. Circular Flow Model. Households and firms interact in two markets. By Fanshawe College, CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0

Clockwise arrows show Firms produce and sell goods and services to households in the market for goods and services (or product market). Households provide the labour and other resources (e.g. land, capital, raw materials) firms need to produce goods and services in the market for inputs (or factors of production).  Next, households pay for goods and services, which becomes the revenues to firms. This is the anticlockwise arrow going from firms to households. The anti clockwise arrows indicate the payments: firms pay for the inputs (or resources) they use in the form of wages and other factor payments. And households earn income from these payments that allow them to pay for the goods and services they produce.

There are many different markets for goods and services and markets for many different types of labour. The circular flow diagram simplifies this to make the picture easier to grasp. In the diagram, firms produce goods and services, which they sell to households in return for revenues. The outer circle shows this, and represents the two sides of the product market (for example, the market for goods and services) in which households demand and firms supply. Households sell their labour as workers to firms in return for wages, salaries, and benefits. The inner circle shows this and represents the two sides of the labour market in which households supply and firms demand.

This version of the circular flow model is stripped down to the essentials, but it has enough features to explain how the product and labour markets work in the economy. We could easily add details to this basic model if we wanted to introduce more real-world elements, like financial markets, governments, and interactions with the rest of the globe (imports and exports).


1.3 How Economists use Theories and Models to Understand Economic Issues” in Principles of Economics 2e by OpenStax is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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