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The Nation's Report Card: U.S. Economics 2006

August 2007

Authors:  Nancy Mead and Brent Sandene

PDF Download the complete report in a PDF file for viewing and printing. (949K PDF)

Image of the cover of the 2006 Economics report card

Executive Summary

Knowledge of economics is important for individuals to function effectively as citizens in an increasingly connected world economy. Economic literacy includes understanding how economies and markets work, what the benefits and costs of economic interaction and interdependence are, and that people have to make choices because resources are limited. In recent decades, the focus on economics content in the school curriculum has increased.


In this first NAEP assessment of economics at grade 12, the overall average economics score, set at 150, fell within the Basic achievement level. Seventy-nine percent of students performed at the Basic level or higher, and 42 percent performed at the Proficient level or higher, including 3 percent at the Advanced level. Results are based on a nationally representative sample of 11,500 twelfth-grade students from 590 public and nonpublic high schools.

Some Key Findings Include

  • The average economics score of male students was higher than the average score of female students.
  • White and Asian/Pacific Islander students scored higher, on average, than other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Students from large city schools had lower average scores than students in other locations.
  • Students whose parents had higher levels of education exhibited higher performance in economics.
  • Most students study some economics in high school.

Economics Content

Students answered questions representing a wide range of content from three areas: market, national, and international economics. Market economy—traditionally described as microeconomics—covers how individuals, businesses, and institutions make decisions about allocating resources in the marketplace. National economy—traditionally described as macroeconomics—encompasses the sum of decisions made by individuals, businesses, and government. International economy concentrates on international trade—how individuals and businesses interact in foreign markets. The questions described below and presented in this report illustrate the knowledge and skills assessed in these three content areas. The full assessment includes questions that cover a range of topics and difficulty levels within each content area.

 What students know about Economics

 Market Economy
 72% described a benefit and a risk of leaving a full-time job to further one’s education
 52% identified how commercial banks use money deposited into customers’ checking accounts
 46% interpreted a supply and demand graph to determine the effect of establishing a price control
 36% used marginal analysis to determine how a business could maximize its profits
 National Economy
 60% identified factors that lead to an increase in the national debt
 36% identified the federal government’s primary source of revenue
 33% explained the effect of an increase in real interest rates on consumers’ borrowing
 11% analyzed how a change in the unemployment rate affects income, spending, and production
 International Economy
 63% determined the impact of a decrease in oil production on oil-importing countries
 51% determined a result of removing trade barriers between two countries
 40% determined why industries can successfully lobby for tariff protection
 32% identified how investment in education can impact economic growth

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PDF Download the complete report in a PDF file for viewing and printing. (949K PDF)

NCES 2007-475 Ordering information

Suggested Citation
Mead, N., and Sandene, B. (2007). The Nation’s Report Card: Economics 2006 (NCES 2007–475). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

For more information, see the results of the 2006 Economics assessment on the Nation's Report Card website.

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Last updated 25 July 2007 (RH)