Economics and the Theory of Production

For economists, the theory of production concerns what firms use to allocate inputs so the quantity of goods (output) is optimized, maximizing profits. Production theory is a branch of microeconomics--the study of consumers and firms.


Mainstream economic theory assumes that firms seek to maximize profits. Production theory, then, asks what combination of inputs (known as factors of production) will generate the quantity of output that yields maximum profit.


Factors of production include land, labor and capital. The latter category consists of a firm’s facilities, machinery and other goods used in the production process.



Some economists group factors of production into more specific categories. These categories include land, capital goods, raw materials, human capital (labor), and entrepreneurship.



A production process is efficient if the resulting quantity of output is the highest level possible. It is inefficient if fewer factors can produce the same quantity of goods.



Economists use a mathematical equation model known as a production function to study production empirically. The production function models output as a function of various levels of inputs.



  • Principles of Economics (3rd edition), N. Gregory Mankiw, 2003
  • Microeconomics: Theory and Applications, Edwin Mansfield, 1994


About the Author

Shane Hall is a writer and research analyst with more than 20 years of experience. His work has appeared in "Brookings Papers on Education Policy," "Population and Development" and various Texas newspapers. Hall has a Doctor of Philosophy in political economy and is a former college instructor of economics and political science.