Grade 9-12

History of Monopolies in the United States

Time: 90 mins,
Updated: December 24 2020,


Students will be able to:

  • Define market, monopoly, entrepreneur, natural monopoly, and profit.
  • Examine the rise of monopolies in the United States.
  • Analyze the effect of monopolies in the U.S. economy.

In this economics lesson, students will examine monopolies in US and compare the market structures of large tech firms.



Ask students the following question: What companies produce the goods and services that you consume? Think about specific industries like food, cell phone service providers or candy. Are there many or just a few companies in each industry?

Display the 2018 report, America’s Concentration Crisis from Open Markets Institute, which argues that markets are becoming more monopolistic. Select a few of the industries identified in the report to understand the concentration of production in the particular industry. Ask students if they are surprised by the data in the report? Based on what they know about market structures, do they agree? Explain that the Open Markets Institute concerns are not new in the United States and that competition is valued in the market system.

If necessary, briefly review an market structure by watching the Competition and Market Structure video.


Present and discuss the Monopoly slides with students to introduce some basic terms and explore the history of monopolies in the United States.

Group Activity

Divide students into six groups for a jigsaw activity. Assign each group to a weblink below:

Ask the group to summarize the information in the article and answering the following questions:

  • What does the article say about monopolies and their role in the economy of the United States?
  • What advantages did the companies have?

Conclude the presentations with a summary of points for why students think monopolies are a good thing or a bad thing.

Individual Activity

Have the students research the debate about Google being a monopoly and write an essay making a case either for or against. Require students to submit their essay. Evaluate the essay using an Essay Rubric. It is recommended to distribute copies to your students and review the rubric as a class. Information to support their position can be local or international. Distribute the links to help the students start their investigation:


Have students take the Monopoly Quiz. Print and distribute copies of the quiz to students. Use the Monopoly Quiz Answer Key as a teacher guide.