The Economics of The Office

Learning economics from the world's best boss

Welcome to "The Economics of the Office," a compilation of curated video clips from the hit television series "The Office" that illustrate concepts in economics. Keep reading to learn how to best utilize these clips in the classroom or click on the button below to browse and search our full catalog of clips.

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Example Clips


Using this clip as a starting point, we can demonstrate and discuss the difference between fixed costs and variable costs.

Season 5 Episode 25 "Broke" Caution!

Production and Cost (D24)

Michael Pam Ryan

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Garage Sale

The office holds a garage sale to get rid of things they no longer need. Meanwhile, Dwight starts with a thumbtack and trades his way up to a telescope. However, he soon parts with the telescope when Jim offers him something of seemingly even more value. This is a great example of how consumer preferences differ and how trade can make two parties better off. It also illustrates how effective marketing can shift an individual's demand curve to the right.

Season 7 Episode 19 "Garage Sale"

Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles (D01) Trade (F10)

Michael Pam Ryan Kelly Dwight Jim Kevin

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Cyclical vs. Structural Unemployment

Michael quit his job (frictional unemployment) but finds out that the economy is in a severe downturn (cyclical unemployment). This demonstrates the idea that most workers are more willing to engage in a job search when cyclical unemployment is high ceteris paribus.

Season 5 Episode 14 "Two Weeks"

Teaching of Economics (A20) Unemployment (J60)

Michael Pam

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This scene is about property rights and gift giving. Michael and Dwight try to prove that face to face sales work more effectively than new technologies and provide gift baskets for their clients. They decide to take the gifts back from a law firm when the firm does not elect to move their business to Dunder Mifflin. “Un-gifting” does not seem to be legal or appropriate but Michael and Dwight attempt to do this anyway. Michael exclaims “WHERE ARE THE TURTLES!” as he tries to get his gift back. (This clip was suggested by Jon Wilson, an undergraduate student at Kansas State University).

Season 4 Episode 2 "Dunder Mifflin Infinity"

Teaching of Economics (A20) Market Structure and Pricing (D40)

Michael Dwight

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Dwight vs. Machine

In the episode "Launch Party" of The Office, Dwight challenges the website to see who can sell more paper. The competition begins with both parties selling paper in their respective ways. Dwight uses his traditional methods of salesmanship, such as making phone calls and visiting customers in person, while the website uses online marketing and social media to reach customers. As the competition progresses, the website gains an advantage by using modern technology to automate their sales process, while Dwight relies more on his personal labor and hard work to make sales. However, as the competition intensifies, Dwight also adopts a technological approach by setting up a website and using online tools to manage his sales. This competition between Dwight's labor and the website's technology highlights the concept of labor and technology as substitutes. As technology advances and becomes more efficient, it can replace human labor in certain tasks, as it did in this competition. However, the competition also shows that the human touch and personal interaction that Dwight provides can still be valuable to some customers. Overall, this clip can be used to illustrate how technological progress can lead to changes in the economy, and how workers need to adapt to these changes to stay competitive. It can also be used to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of substituting labor with technology, and how businesses need to balance these factors to succeed in the marketplace. This description was written by Chat-GPT based on a few prompts:

Season 4 Episode 5 "Launch Party"

Labor Productivity (J24) Technological Change (O30)

Pam Dwight Jim Andy

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Tips on Teaching

For anyone that is new to teaching with media we highly recommend:

The following excerpt is from, How to Use Media to Teach and Learn Economics. The full module is found on Starting Point.

Using media requires that the instructor step outside of the traditional lecture method and facilitate learning by encouraging students to learn through the media. This approach works best when students are primed. If students are not adequately informed about what they are expected them to learn, they will struggle to make the connection between the learning objectives and the media that they are exposed to.

When to introduce media?

Two more tips if you are new to this method: