Economics is a social science that, among other things, attempts to describe human behavior. An important concept in this regard is utility, which economists define as the total satisfaction received from consuming a good or service. Utility can perhaps be most easily understood as a measure of happiness and consists of a combination of tangible and intangible benefits.
A basic assumption underlying many economic analyses is that people attempt to maximize utility. Consider, for example, an individual who is trying to decide whether to pursue a veterinary degree. The primary tangible benefit of this additional schooling is the increased income that can be expected as a result. However, there are benefits beyond increased income that come with working in the veterinary profession, such as the enjoyment of helping animals, improving public health and safety, or teaching new veterinarians. Thus, the total benefit veterinarians receive from their veterinary degree includes both tangible (eg, income) and intangible benefits.
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