Thick and thin markets

Most of us would rather have more options for any decision we have to make. But having so many options can delay decision-making. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden discusses what economists have to say about the impact and importance of the number and range of decision-making options that people have.

“We even have some terms … for the options for decision making,” he says. “We say a market is ‘thick’ if it has many options. We say a market is ‘thin’ if it has few options.

“And you,” he says to his wife, host Mary Walden, “who likes many options, I think, would prefer thick markets. In general, what you see in thick markets is a lot of competition. You have a lot of businesses, for example, trying to serve the consumer. And so consumers perhaps get a better selection.

“You also from the labor side, perhaps, have more people that businesses can select from for certain tasks.

“Now these markets, I think, most of us don’t think about,  but … it’s very important if you are in a sort of a select type of profession. For example, why is it that so many aspiring actors end up in either New York City or Los Angeles? (It’s) because outside of those two areas the entertainment industry is actually rather thin. It’s really in those two markets that you find most of the production, you find most of the options and, therefore, you find most of the actors and actresses.

“So this has a wide amount of application. And, indeed, Mary, even within a particular market, you can see a change over time a change from perhaps thin to thick.

“I think we have been in North Carolina now for about 40 years. We have seen, for example, the Triangle area, in many cases, go from thick to thin markets with the market. Also, the Charlotte metropolitan area.”

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