Although most high school students do not get the benefit of taking an economics class a recent nationally administered test shows they are not doing too bad. Not sure what the standards were, but 79% of students showed a basic understanding of economics. The test did show that most people understood the idea of opportunity cost as around 72% could give a benefit and cost to leaving a job to receive more education. Recently Greg Mankiw suggested he would like students to learn three things in High School about economics: (1) Comparative Advantage (2) Supply/Demand and Efficiency of the Market (3) Market Failure and Externalities.
Although, my favorite of Mankiw’s Economic principles from his textbook is people respond to incentives. I often wonder what are the incentives for students to do well on these nationally administered tests? It reminds me of my 12 grade year in Ohio where we took a state wide 12th grade test. Students received no benefit for doing well on the test as it was only used to collect data for the Ohio school system, so I knew many students who just did not bother trying.