The Nation's Report Card: Economics 2006

Jeffrey Howard

National Assessment of Educational Progress
August 2007

The Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress has added an economic twist. A new NAEP report details the results of an economics assessment administered to 11,500 high school seniors across 590 public and private schools. It finds that even though many American kids remain, for the most part, economically illiterate, the dismal science has gained a curricular foothold in recent decades: 65 percent of students say they've taken a formal economics course in high school. On the test, 60 percent of students were able to identify what contributes to an increase in the national debt, and 46 percent were able to read a supply-and-demand graph to explain the consequence of price controls. Only 11 percent, however, were able to explain how a change in the unemployment rate affects spending, production, and income, and more than a third of students thought money deposited in a checking account sits in a vault until withdrawn. These are telling data, and most of the report is stuffed with similarly interesting observations. Generally, though, the big picture in economics resembles that in other subjects examined by NAEP. For example, "higher levels of parental education are associated with higher scores" and "students in large city schools score lower than students elsewhere." Still and all, this first-of-its-kind study serves an indispensable service: getting economic education on the national radar and appraising the current state of student knowledge of this subject. Learn more here.