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Lesson 1: The Market for Moving People to America



1. A key to understanding people’s behavior is figuring out the incentives they face.

2. Economic freedom, rule of law, and well-defined property rights promote growth and prosperity.

ECONOMIC CONCEPTS that support the historical analysis:


Opportunity Cost


Labor Markets

Supply and Demand

Wage Determination

Expected Benefits v. Expected Costs


History Standards (from National Standards for History by the National Center for History in the Schools)

Era 2 – 1: The student understands why the Americas attracted Europeans, why they brought enslaved Africans to their colonies, and how Europeans struggled for control of North America and the Caribbean.

Economics Standards (from Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics)

Standard 5: Students will understand that voluntary exchange occurs only when all participating parties expect to gain. This is true for trade among individuals or organizations within a nation, and among individuals or organizations in different nations.


  • Indentured servitude, far from being systematic exploitation, was based on mutual accommodation and voluntary exchange in which both the servant and the master benefited.
  • The indenture system provided an active trade in human talent, and should be viewed as an investment in migration as well as in job training/apprenticeship.
  • The system of indentured servitude exemplifies the social cooperation that is the foundation of a market system.
  • This emerging labor market played a key role in determining that our national legacy would be English in law, language, and custom.