Study Finds Huge Racial Disparities in the Economic Knowledge of High School Seniors

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education has conducted a National Assessment of Educational Progress survey of the proficiency of high school seniors in the discipline of economics. This benchmark study was conducted by surveying 11,500 twelfth-graders at 590 high schools across the United States. The survey included questions about individual money and resource allocation decisions, the national market economy, and international trade issues.

Overall, 79 percent of students had achieved a level of basic knowledge in the field of economics. Slightly more than 40 percent were deemed proficient in the subject. But there were wide variations by race. Eighty-seven percent of white students had achieved a basic knowledge of economics compared to 57 percent of black high school seniors. More than half of white high school seniors were deemed proficient in economics compared to only 16 percent of blacks.

These differences are alarming considering that the black students are now heading off to college or into the work force with an extreme disadvantage compared to whites in how our economy functions.