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Utility theory is important for understanding consumer choice.

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  1. Define total utility.
  2. Define marginal utility.
  3. State the law of diminishing marginal utility.
  4. Explain why we cannot use the law of diminishing marginal utility to tell whether an additional dollar of income is worth more to a poor man or a rich man.


  1. Chuck has been hired by the Academic Department of a Community College to tutor students who are struggling in the Math classes. Chuckdoes not have Internet service at home, so he can either go to a local store that provides Internet for ten cents per minute and Skype students or he can drive to Campus to meet them. The Community College is located 20 miles from Chuck’s home and the round-trip costs of $5 in gasoline money. In both cases, he can only tutor one student. He has a total of $20 per week to spend on tutoring. To make his preferred choice, Chuck uses a handy utilimometer that measures his total utility from Skype call and from Campus visits. Using the values given in the following table, figure out the points on Chuck’s consumption choice budget constraint (it may be helpful to do a sketch) and identify his utility-maximizing point. Also, take Chuck’s total utility information, and use the marginal utility approach to confirm the choice of Internet minutes and campus visits that maximize Chuck’s utility
Campus visits Total Utility Internet Minutes Total Utility
0 0 0 0
1 80 20 200
2 150 40 380
3 210 60 540
4 260 80 680
5 300 100 800
6 330 120 900
7 200 140 980
8 180 160 1040
9 160 180 1080
10 140 200 1100


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  1. Albert is an avid consumer of two specific services, A and B. The following table shows the total utility (TU) that Albert receives from consuming the services on a monthly basis.
    1. Fill in the other columns of the table by calculating the marginal utilities for services A and B and the ratios of marginal utilities to price for the two services. Assume that the price of both services is $5. Be sure to use the “midpoint convention” when you fill out the table.
    2. If Albert allocates $100 to spend on both services, how many units will he buy of each?
    3. How much will Albert spend on each service at the utility maximizing combination?
    4. How much total utility will Albert experience by buying the utility-maximizing combination?
    5. Suppose the price of service B increases to $10. How many units of A and B will he buy to maximize his utility now?
    6. Draw Albert’s demand curve for service B between the prices of $10 and $5.


Quantity TU (A) MU (A) MUA/PA TU (B) MU (B) MUB/PB
0 0     0    
1 50     75    
2 88     117    
3 121     153    
4 150     181    
5 175     206    
6 196     225    
7 214     243    
8 229     260    
9 241     276    


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