A Step Backwards in Spreading Financial Literacy

Courtney Williams's picture
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Even as the financial literacy movement gains steam oversees, it may be losing momentum in the U.S.

In its most recent Survey of the States report, the Council for Economic Education found that since 2009, three fewer states require schools to test in the area of economics and one fewer state requires schools to offer a personal finance course. States requiring that students be tested on personal finance concepts fell by almost half.

This backtracking comes after a decade of growth in financial education programs in schools. In 1998, just 16 states required that a course in economics be offered to high school students and just 13 made it a requirement. Today, 25 states require an economics class and 22 make it a requirement. Both of those numbers rose again in the latest report.

But there was a significant drop in key areas. The number of states that test students on economic concepts fell to 16 from 19. That number stood at 27 in 2002. This mind-boggling retreat comes amid the worst economic downturn in several generations. Presumably, strapped school budgets had something to do with the fall off. But can you imagine a worse time to downplay economics courses in school than during the depths of a recession?

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