NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Economic Illiteracy

May 5, 1999

Are we a nation of economic illiterates? A recent national survey of 1,010 adults and 1,085 high school students reveals low comprehension rates of basic economic concepts. The survey was sponsored by the National Council on Economic Education.

  • On average, adults got a grade of 57 percent in a test on economic basics -- while the average grade for high school students was 48 percent.
  • Almost two-thirds of those tested did not know that in times of inflation money loses its value.
  • Just over one in three Americans recognize that society must make choices about how to use resources.

While 38 states offer standards for teaching economics, only 13 states actually require students to take economics courses -- including California, Florida, New York and Texas.

Observers wonder -- given the unimpressive level of economic understanding among citizens -- if we can reasonably expect our representatives in Congress to avoid the kinds of policy mistakes which too often this century, and even now, impede economic progress.

Source: William Peterson (Heritage Foundation and Campbell University), "Forward With Uneconomics?" Investor's Business Daily, May 3, 1999.


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