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Econ Lowdown Economic and Financial Education Working and Published Papers

This page includes St. Louis Fed economic education staff’s working research papers as well as published articles, chapters, and other work in economic and financial education.

"China's Rapid Economic Rise: A New Application of an Old Recipe," Scott Wolla and Yi Wen, Social Education, March/April 2017, 81(2), pp 93-97, 2017.
Are democratic institutions a necessary precursor to economic development? Students can debate this issue and draw informed conclusions after studying the case of China's historic rise.

"Data Literacy Contributes to Critical Thinking: FRED for the Classroom," Kathy Cosgrove, Mary Suiter, Scott Wolla, Social Studies Research and Practice, 2012, 7(4), pp.29-45.
The authors make the case that data literacy is a key component to critical thinking in the world today. They describe the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) database and how it can be used. They provide a classroom lesson that uses FRED to help students gain an understanding of inflation and price stability.

"Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Online Module for Increasing Economic Literacy," Scott Wolla, Social Studies Research and Practice, 2017, Vol. 12 Issue: 2, pp.154-167, 2017.
Abstract: Financial literacy is lacking across all age groups, but less than one-third of young adults have even basic financial knowledge. Research has demonstrated that online learning is effective. As such, online learning strategies may be a useful tool for improving the financial literacy of high school students. The paper aims to discuss this issue. This study uses student-level (N=3,061) and school-level data (n=100) to examine the effectiveness of Soar to Savings, an online learning module that teaches key personal finance and economics concepts. The findings show large, positive, and statistically significant gains in learning from pretest to posttest for the student-level and school-level samples. The results provide evidence that Soar to Savings is an effective tool for increasing financial knowledge.

"Financial Literacy in the Community College Classroom: A Curriculum Intervention Study," Erin A. Yetter and Mary Suiter, Working Paper 2015-001, May 2015.
We added a financial literacy curriculum unit to 62 of the 93 sections of Urban Community College’s New Student Course; the other 31 sections of the course served as the control group. All students were given a pre and post-test on their knowledge of four dimensions of financial literacy. We found that student pre-test scores, academic ability, and participation in the financial literacy curriculum were statistically significant predictors of student post-test scores. On average and depending on the model used, students who received the financial literacy curriculum scored about 5 to 7 percentage points better than students who did not.
Keywords: financial literacy, financial education, community college, hierarchical linear modeling
JEL*: A22, G00

"Job Market Signaling: An Active Learning Approach for Teaching Education and Employment," Scott Wolla, Social Studies Research and Practice, 2014, 9(2), pp. 89-106.
Economics classrooms are typically teacher-centered, textbook-driven, and often dominated by chalk-and-talk methodology. This paper advocates for an active learning approach and offers a lesson plan for key concepts. More specifically this lesson uses the economic concept of job market signaling to teach important economic content. Job market signaling is a process that matches workers and employers within labor markets. It occurs when potential employees convey information about their productivity to employers through academic credentials. An academic credential—for example, a college degree—conveys information valuable to both parties. It benefits the employer by indicating job skills and productivity; it benefits the employee because it increases the likelihood of gaining employment at higher wages. Earning academic credentials, thus, is important for success in the labor market. For this reason, it is a useful concept to teach students. By participating in a simulated competitive labor market as employers and potential employees, students learn about the links between education, productivity, income, and employment. As potential employees in this exercise have varying levels of education, this lesson also conveys important information for students concerning their own decisions about pursuing post-secondary education.

"Resources for economic educators from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis," Mary C. Suiter and Keith G. Taylor, The Journal of Economic Education, 2016, 47(1), pp.71-75.
Abstract: The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has a long history of providing economic and financial information to the public that continues today, although the format, deliver, and amount of information have changed over the years. Today, the St. Louis Fed provides Web-based data and information services, including FRED® and FRASER®, and publications, online courses, videos, podcasts, and much more that cover a wide array of economic topics. All these materials provide opportunities to engage students and enhance instruction in college classrooms.
For more information, see

"Resources for Teaching Economic and Financial Literacy in Light of the Great Recession," Suiter, M. C., & Wolla, S. A., Social Education, 2015, 79(2), pp. 74-77.
Social Education is the official journal of National Council for the Social Studies.

"Teaching About Personal Finance: The National Standards for Financial Literacy," Andrew T. Hill and Mary C. Suiter, Social Education, 2014, 78(4), pp. 189-191.
Abstract: In "Proposed National Standards for Financial Literacy: What's In? What's Out?" Maier, Figart, and Nelson pose the question: "How should educators use the standards?" In answering that question, they suggest a number of issues and topics that they believe should be taught along with the National Standards for Financial Literacy. Among the most daunting challenges faced by standards writers in any discipline is the delineation of boundaries to define the breadth and scope of the discipline. The question of "What should be in and what should be out?" in these standards loomed large throughout the nearly two years of work on them. In this article, we provide additional explanations about the rationale for these standards and the process we used to develop them. We also describe how these standards can be used by educators nationwide.

"Why Didn't China Discover the New World?" Wolla, S., Social Education, National Council for the Social Studies, 2013, 77(2), pp 68-73.
A historic look at China and its early technological advances offers an excellent opportunity to incorporate economic lessons into the study of world history.

"Why Do We Call it The 'Great' Depression?" Teaching the C3 Framework: A Guide to Inquiry-Based Instruction in the Social Studies, National Council for the Social Studies, 2014.
For more information, see

"Yours, Mine, and the Truth: Using a Structured Minimum Wage Debate to Teach Core Economic Principles," Scott Wolla, The American Economist, Nov. 8, 2017.
Abstract: This article describes a strategy for using the minimum wage as a classroom debate topic. Classroom debate is an active-learning strategy that encourages students to develop skills that are often lacking in the college curriculum. Specifically, classroom debate promotes critical thinking and encourages students to see topics from various perspectives. Economics topics are well suited for classroom debate because most of the policy arguments have at least two well-reasoned positions. The minimum wage is an economics topic that students tend to care deeply about because it speaks to issues of poverty, income inequality, discrimination, and the economic value of education, and many students in the college demographic earn minimum, or near-minimum, wage. Instructors who use the minimum wage debate in their classrooms will find that students will apply an “economic way of thinking” to issues at the core of the curriculum.

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Audience:   College, Consumers
Language:   English
Subjects:   Economics, Data Literacy
Resource Types:   Papers, Data, Charts/Graphs