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John Q. Easton
Acting Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics

NCES Statement on PISA 2012 Financial Literacy Results
July 9, 2014

Today, the National Center for Education Statistics is releasing results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) financial literacy assessment, conducted in 18 education systems, including the United States.

About PISA

PISA is a system of international assessments that allows countries to compare outcomes of learning as students near the end of compulsory schooling. PISA has measured the performance of 15-year-old students in mathematics, science, and reading literacy every 3 years since 2000. In 2012, PISA also assessed general problem solving and financial literacy. Results for the mathematics, science, and reading assessments were released in December 2013 and results from the assessment of problem solving were released in April 2014.

In 2012, PISA was administered in 65 education systems, including all 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and 31 other countries and subnational education systems. Of the 65 education systems, 18 administered the assessment of financial literacy, including 13 OECD countries. In each participating education system, probability sampling was used to obtain a representative sample of all 15-year-old students, regardless of grade, educational track, or school program type.

PISA's goal is to assess students' preparation for the challenges of life as young adults. PISA assesses the application of knowledge to problems within a real-life context. PISA does not focus explicitly on curricular outcomes and uses the term “literacy” in each subject area to indicate its broad focus on the application of knowledge and skills. In the financial literacy assessment, PISA assessed students’ ability to apply their knowledge and skills to real-life situations involving financial issues and decisions.

How PISA Is Reported

PISA results are presented in terms of average scale scores and the percentage of 15-year-old students reaching selected proficiency levels, comparing the United States with other participating education systems and with the average of the 13 participating OECD countries (referred to as the OECD-FL average). For proficiency levels, results are reported in terms of the percentage reaching five levels of proficiency, with an emphasis on the percentages reaching level 5 and the percentages below level 2. Higher proficiency levels represent the knowledge, skills, and capabilities needed to perform tasks of greater complexity.

All differences described here using PISA data are statistically significant at the .05 level. Differences that are not statistically significant are referred to as being “similar” or “not measurably different.”

U.S. Performance in Financial Literacy

Average scores in financial literacy in 2012 ranged from 603 in Shanghai-China to 379 in Colombia. The U.S. average was 492, which was not measurably different from the OECD-FL average (500). The U.S. average was lower than the average in seven education systems, higher than the average in three education systems, and not measurably different from the average in seven education systems.

The percentage of top-performing U.S. 15-year-old students (those scoring at proficiency level 5) in financial literacy was 9 percent in 2012. Percentages of top-performing students in financial literacy ranged from 43 percent in Shanghai-China to 1 percent in Colombia. The percentage of top performers in financial literacy in the United States was lower than in four education systems and higher than in eight education systems. It was not measurably different from the OECD-FL average or from the average in five education systems.

The percentage of low-performing U.S. 15-year-old students (those scoring below proficiency level 2, which is considered a baseline of proficiency by the OECD), was 18 percent in 2012. Percentages of low-performing students in financial literacy ranged from 56 percent in Colombia to 2 percent in Shanghai-China. The percentage of low performers in financial literacy in the United States was higher than in seven education systems and lower than four education systems. It was not measurably different from the OECD-FL average or from the average in six education systems.

For More Information

This statement highlights some of the findings from the PISA 2012 financial literacy assessment from the U.S. perspective. Tables and figures, available on the NCES website, provide more details. Also, other findings are available in the OECD's report on PISA 2012. For more information on PISA and the U.S. PISA 2012 results, please visit the PISA website at http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education