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The economy is often said to be divided into two main sectors: private and public.

The private sector refers to all the organizations within a country that are owned by people acting on their own behalf. These people generally run the companies primarily for the purpose of profit for themselves and their fellow owners.

Examples of the private sector include restaurants, drug stores, supermarkets, car dealers, banks, most law firms, privately owned hospitals and private schools and universities. Large publicly owned corporations such as Walmart, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Apple, IBM and Exxon are also part of the private sector.

Entities owned by the government belong to the public sector. They are generally created to provide for the greater good of society, rather than for a profit. They have purposes such as public safety, transportation, education or healthcare. Their benefits are not measured in profits, and are not as easily quantified.

Examples of the public sector in the United States include Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission.  Public schools, government-owned hospitals, local government organizations, police departments and fire departments are also part the public sector. These may generate revenue but are typically funded to some degree through taxes.

Non-profits and charities are sometimes said to belong to a third sector, called the voluntary sector. At other times, these are considered part of the public sector.

In most capitalistic countries, the private sector is the larger of the two sectors.

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