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The IB Diploma Programme Economics course forms part of group 3 - individuals and societies.

Economics is an exciting, dynamic subject that allows students to develop an understanding of the complexities and interdependence of economic activities in a rapidly changing world.

At the heart of economic theory is the problem of scarcity. While the world’s population has unlimited needs and wants, there are limited resources to satisfy these needs and wants. As a result of this scarcity, choices have to be made. The DP economics course, at both SL and HL, uses economic theories to examine the ways in which these choices are made:

  • at the level of producers and consumers in individual markets (microeconomics)
  • at the level of the government and the national economy (macroeconomics)
  • at an international level where countries are becoming increasingly interdependent through international trade and the movement of labour and capital (the global economy).

The choices made by economic agents (consumers, producers and governments) generate positive and negative outcomes and these outcomes affect the relative well-being of individuals and societies. As a social science, economics examines these choices using models and theories. The DP economics course allows students to explore these models and theories, and apply them, using empirical data, through the examination of six real-world issues.

As economic growth and increased efficiency become prominent goals, two other important global economic issues related to these goals are; the ways in which economic activity impacts the environment, and the challenges facing the world in terms of fair access to resources, goods and services. When exploring these significant global issues, sustainability and equity become key concepts for DP economic students to understand.

In all areas of economic activity, the economic agents can be divided up into the private sector (consumers and producers) and the public sector (governments). To different extents and with different outcomes, the public sector in any economy assumes some responsibility for monitoring and regulating the behaviour of the private sector. This government intervention is a significant concept that appears throughout the course and students are expected to critically evaluate the balance between the market forces of the private sector and intervention by governments.

Given the rapidly changing world, economic activity and its outcomes are constantly in flux. Therefore, students are encouraged, throughout the course, to research current real-world issues. Through their own inquiry, it is expected that students will be able to appreciate both the values and limitations of economic models in explaining real-world economic behaviour and outcomes.

By focusing on the six real-world issues through the nine key concepts (scarcity, choice, efficiency, equity, economic well-being, sustainability, change, interdependence and intervention), students of the DP economics course will develop the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that will encourage them to act responsibly as global citizens.

For the internal assessment, both standard level and higher level candidates are required to produce a portfolio of three commentaries based on published extracts from the news media using the key concepts as a lens. In addition, for the external assessment, there are two examinations for standard level students and three examinations at higher level. 

Learn more about economics in a DP workshop for teachers.

Economics subject brief

Subject briefs are short two-page documents providing an outline of the course. Read the standard level (SL) and/or higher level (HL) subject brief below. 


Economics SL (PDF, 43 KB) pdf

Economics HL (PDF, 44 KB) pdf