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.

Articles Related to St. Louis Fed Resources

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego. "Active Learning with FRED Data." Journal of Economic Education, 2020, 51:1, pp. 87-94.
Abstract: In this article, the author describes the practice of active learning with Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED). First, he outlines the broad intellectual context of learning with and about economic data, summarizing the recent scholarly contributions made to the topic. Next, the author presents several strategies for teaching with FRED in the classroom. Following that, he describes a type of interactive instructional resource called FRED Interactive (FRED-I) modules, accessible through The author then illustrates the use of these modules in hybrid classrooms through several examples.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego and Malakar, Lucy. "Flipping the Classroom with" Journal of Economic Education, 2020, 51:1, pp. 95-102.
Abstract: In this article, the authors describe two independent efforts at “flipping” introductory economics courses employing resources. From an instructor’s perspective, it is relatively simple to locate the high-quality free resources available online and assign them to students. Their alignment with national content standards in economics and prescribed State of Ohio learning outcomes are important adoption considerations under performance-based funding constraints. Overall, the authors found the online video podcasts and virtual lectures produced by the economic education specialists and instructional designers at the St. Louis Fed to be valuable instructional assets in different institutional settings and across disparate student populations.

Hill, Andrew T. and Wolla, Scott. “A Survey of Federal Reserve Economic Education Programs and Resources.” Journal of Economic Education, 2020, 51:1, pp. 68-79.
Abstract: The authors survey the economic education programs and resources produced and supported by the Federal Reserve System. They provide the history, goals, context, and reach of the Federal Reserve System’s economic and personal financial education efforts, and summarize the research produced by Reserve Bank staff on economic and personal financial education program effectiveness. They explain how the Dodd-Frank Act has affected the Reserve Banks’ personal financial education programming and provide summary measures of the impact of the Federal Reserve System’s economic and personal financial education efforts on students and teachers nationwide.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego. "Experiential Learning in Macroeconomics through FREDcast." International Review of Economics Education, 2019, 30(1) pp. 1-10.
Abstract: This article discusses how to use FREDcast, an interactive economic forecasting game from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, to teach macroeconomics. It provides instructions on how to set the game up and organize related teaching materials such as graphs and data points through a FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data) Dashboard. It also puts forward a series of classroom discussion questions and suggested assignments. We argue that this pedagogical strategy provides an engaging context for the discussion of core topics in macroeconomics while contributing to the development of data-related expected student proficiencies.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego, Jefferson, Charissa and Stierholz, Katrina. "Keeping It Real: Information Literacy, Numeracy, and Economic Data." Numeracy, 2019, 12(2), pp. 1-16.
Abstract: We describe a pedagogical strategy aimed at developing both quantitative and information literacy skills through a social justice lens. The student learning goals span three intellectual domains: social justice, through a critical exploration of either the purchasing power of minimum wages across states or the earnings gap between men and women employed full time; numeracy, through the computation of ratios between variables with different rates of growth over time; and information literacy, through a series of activities and discussion questions aimed at evaluating sources of data on wages, earnings, and price levels for authority and content.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego and Wolla, Scott. "Segmenting Education Content: Long-form vs. Short-form Online Learning Modules." American Journal of Distance Education, 2019, 33(2), pp. 1-12.
Abstract: This article studies the differences in student learning outcomes associated with changes in the format of online learning resources related to unemployment. We compare completion rates and degrees of student achievement across several economic education learning modules produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Initially designed as a long-form online learning module focused on unemployment, the virtual lecture “The Story of Unemployment” was later chunked into four separate short-form learning modules. We document that chunking online instructional materials increases retained learning and consistently boosts information absorption at the item level.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego and Wolla, Scott. "One Small Spoonful at a Time: Long-form vs. Short-form Financial Education Online Learning Modules," Empirical Pedagogy, 2019, 32 (4), pp. 401-415.
Abstract: This paper studies the differences in student learning outcomes associated with changes in the format of online learning resources related to personal finance. Working on a sample of 68,972 students, we adopt a two group pre- and post-test quasi-experimental design. We find across-the-board evidence of increased completion rates among registered students and statistically significant increases in average differences between pre-test and post-test scores. Additionally, we study how the increases in scores are distributed across students by comparing pre-test grade quartiles. Finally, we document changes in information absorption at the test-item level across module lengths.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego, Taylor, Keith, and Bayles, Mark. "Building a Taylor Rule Using FRED." Journal of Economics Teaching, 2017, 2(1), pp. 14-29.
Abstract: This article discusses how to build and display a graph of a Taylor rule with FRED, the St. Louis Fed’s economic database. The article provides additional instructions for saving the graph to a FRED Dashboard and puts forward a series of classroom discussion questions and suggested assignments. We argue that this pedagogical strategy provides an engaging context for the discussion of an otherwise abstract topic in macroeconomics.

Wolla, Scott. “Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Online Module for Increasing Economic Literacy.” Social Studies Research and Practice, 2017, 12(2), pp. 154-167.
Abstract: Financial literacy is lacking across all age groups, but less than one-third of young adults have even basic financial knowledge. Online learning strategies may be a useful tool for improving the financial literacy of high school students. This study uses student-level (N=3,061) and school-level data (n=100) to examine the effectiveness 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.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego and Asarta, Carlos. "Using FRED Data to Teach Price Elasticity of Demand." Journal of Economic Education, 2017, 48(3), pp. 176-185.
Abstract: The authors discuss the use of Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) statistics to teach the concept of price elasticity of demand in an introduction to economics course. By using real data in its computation, they argue that instructors can create a value-adding context for illustrating and applying a foundational concept in economics. Additionally, this pedagogical strategy contributes to developing data-related expected proficiencies for economics majors. The authors provide step-by-step instructions on how to use FRED to compute the price elasticity of demand for motor vehicle fuels and gasoline as well as examples of in-class discussion questions and take-home assignments.

Suiter, Mary C. and Taylor, Keith G. “Resources for economic educators from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis." 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.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego. "Visualizing Data and the Online FRED Database." Journal of Economic Education, 2015, 46(4), pp. 420-429.
Abstract: The author discusses a pedagogical strategy based on data visualization and analysis in the teaching of intermediate macroeconomics and financial economics. In these short projects, students collect and manipulate economic data from the online Federal Reserve Economic Database (FRED) in order to illustrate theoretical relationships discussed in class. All the data collection and manipulation tasks are conducted through the FRED Web site. The author argues that as students locate and effectively use the quantitative information that they need to evaluate abstract concepts, they are in effect developing the connection between theories and empirical evidence that underpins the discipline of economics.

Cosgrove, Kathy, Suiter, Mary, and Wolla, Scott. “Data Literacy Contributes to Critical Thinking: FRED for the Classroom." Social Studies Research and Practice, 2012, 7(4), pp. 29-45.
Abstract: 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.

Economic Education Articles

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego and Asarta, Carlos. "Bringing Down the Walls in Business and Management Education: A Textual Analysis of Economic Education Articles." Journal of Education for Business, 2020, 95(3), pp. 1-12.
Abstract: In an effort to de-silo the Business and Management Education field, this paper employs text mining and analysis techniques to derive information about the location of the intellectual focus of interest in economic education scholarship. We examine the abstracts of articles published in the leading economic education journal using digital humanities tools, finding evidence of a sustained volume of scholarship devoted to Instruction but also substantial change in the volume of Research, Content, and Features scholarship over time. Finally, we document frequency and patterns of keywords, and identify scholarly gaps offering potential opportunities for cross-collaboration within the field.

Ihrig, Jane and Wolla, Scott. “Closing the Monetary Policy Curriculum Gap: A Primer for Educators Making the Transition to Teaching the Fed's Ample-Reserves Framework." FEDS Notes, 2020, 2020-10-23.
Abstract: The Federal Reserve (the Fed), the central bank of the United States, has a Congressional mandate to promote maximum employment and price stability. While those goals were articulated in 1977, the approach and tools used to implement those objectives have changed over time.

Wolla, Scott. "The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: A Primer for Social Studies Educators." The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Studies, 2020, 81(2), Article 3.
Abstract: This paper provides a framework for understanding the economic effects of automation and artificial intelligence (AI). First, it reviews how physical capital interacts with labor in the context of automation and AI. Next, it discusses recent advances in AI and potential economic outcomes such as job market polarization and income inequality. It then describes the role education has played in previous economic transitions and the role it will likely play as technology advances. Finally, the paper identifies key economic concepts and teaching resources that educators can use to help students understand the economic effects of automation and AI.

Ihrig, Jane and Wolla, Scott. “The Federal Reserve’s Early Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
This article was published in Social Education (March-April 2021). Social Education is the official journal of the National Council for the Social Studies (

Ihrig, Jane and Wolla, Scott. “Fixing the ‘Curriculum Lag’ in Economics: The new tools the Fed is using to influence the economy.”
This article was published in Social Education (March-April 2020). Social Education is the official journal of the National Council for the Social Studies (
Abstract: This primer on the Fed’s current monetary policy framework can bring educators and students up-to-date on how the Fed uses monetary policy to steer the economy toward maximum employment and price stability.

Ihrig, Jane and Wolla, Scott. “Let’s close the gap: Revising teaching materials to reflect how the Federal Reserve implements monetary policy.” Finance and Economics Discussion Series. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2020, 2020-092.
Abstract: The Federal Reserve has changed the way it implements monetary policy and it has introduced new policy tools along the way. This paper shows that many teaching resources are not in sync with the Fed’s current framework. We review six, 2020 or 2021 edition, principles of economics textbooks and find they vary greatly in their coverage of the concepts associated with the way the Fed implements policy today and in the longer run. We provide recommendations on how the authors can improve the next editions of their textbooks. We also review standards and guidelines used by secondary school educators.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego. "The Ultimatum Game in The Dirty Dozen." in Laura Ahlstrom and Franklin Mixon, ed., War Movies and Economics: Lessons from Hollywood's Adaptations of Military Conflict. New York; NY: Routledge Economics and Popular Culture Series, 2020.
Abstract: The movie The Dirty Dozen (1967) presents an opportunity to teach game theory by illustrating the ultimatum game played under two competing strategies. In the first instance, the movie illustrates a strictly rational, analytical strategy. In the second instance, the movie touches on behavioral theory strategies described by Camerer and reviewed by E. Angner.

Wolla, Scott, Schug, Mark C., and Wood, William C. “The Economics of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.” Social Education, 2019, 83(2), pp 83-87.
Abstract: New technologies have always destroyed some jobs while creating others. But will Artificial Intelligence finally be the technical advance that makes large numbers of humans redundant?

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego and Davis-Kahl Stephanie. "Experiential and Service Learning through Local Data Projects." Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research, 2019, 2(4), pp. 23-29.
Abstract: An increased focus on high-impact pedagogical practices at a small, residential, higher education institution led to a grant-funded project to gather and analyze multi-dimensional data on 10,155 residential foreclosures in central Illinois from 2006 to 2013. Student researchers applied skills gained through academic coursework to investigate a real-world issue in the local community and communicated their findings to a variety of stakeholders. The direct assessment of 85 capstone-level research projects reveals that those with a community service focus displayed a stronger mastery by students of particular expected proficiencies relative to research projects with a traditional scholarly focus.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego, Mixon, Franklin, and Asarta, Carlos. "Can Economic Education Improve Entry-Level Math Skills?" Perspectives on Economic Education Research, 2018, 11(1), pp. 19-40.
Abstract: Previous studies, such as Smyth and Kroncke (2005), have shown that mathematics aptitude provides spillover benefits to learning economics principles. However, there is limited evidence of economics instruction developing mathematical skills. We employ a two-step econometric procedure and decompose our findings according to the type of math question posed to students: traditional algebra, graph-based algebra, and word-problem algebra. Controlling for student characteristics, we find widespread improvements in entry-level math skills among students completing standard courses in introductory economics. These improvements are the largest in traditional algebra skills and in word-problem algebra skills.

Kliesen, Kevin and Wolla, Scott. “Federal Reserve Policy: Managing Both Sides of the Dual Mandate.” Social Education, 2018, 82(2), 87-90.
Abstract: The role of the Federal Reserve and how it influences our economy can stimulate an interesting classroom discussion on the importance of price stability, employment levels, and interest rates.

Wolla, Scott. “The Textbook Treatment of Net Exports: Will the Uninformed Reader Understand?Journal of Economics Teaching, 2018, 3(2), pp. 233-253.
Abstract: The gross domestic product (GDP) expenditures approach is an effective way to address the components of GDP. However, when it comes to net exports, textbooks often lack detail. Twenty principles-level textbooks were examined for their treatment of net exports within the GDP expenditures approach. Using a scoring rubric, I conclude that only half provide enough detail for an uninformed reader to arrive at a correct understanding of net exports. In this paper, I will correct misconceptions, make three specific recommendations for improving GDP instruction, and provide a short lesson that can be easily implemented in the classroom.

Wolla, Scott. “Yours, Mine, and the Truth: Using a Structured Minimum Wage Debate in the Economics Classroom." The American Economist, 2018, 63(2), pp. 245-259.
Abstract: This article describes a strategy for using the minimum wage as a classroom debate topic. 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 earn minimum wage. Instructors who use the minimum wage debate will find that students will apply an “economic way of thinking” to issues at the core of the curriculum.

Wolla, Scott and Wen, Yi. “China's Rapid Economic Rise: A New Application of an Old Recipe.” Social Education, March/April 2017, 81(2), pp. 93-97.
Abstract: 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.

Wolla, Scott and Barnett, Sara. “Math and History Connections for Middle School Economics.” in Mary Beth Henning, ed., Innovations in Economic Education: Promising Practices for Teachers and Students K-16. New York, NY: Routledge, 2016.
Abstract: This chapter describes the current status of economics in the middle school, suggests reasons and strategies for including economic content in history, geography, general social studies, and math courses during these years, and offers high-quality resources to accomplish the task.

Mendez-Carbajo, Diego. "Quantitative Reasoning and Information Literacy in Economics” in Barbara D’Angelo, Sandra Jamieson, Barry Maid, and Janice R. Walker, ed., Information Literacy: Research and Collaboration across Disciplines. Perspectives on Writing. Fort Collins, Colorado: WAC Clearinghouse and University of Colorado Press, 2016, pp. 305-322.
Abstract: The goal of introducing elements of case method teaching into an intermediate macroeconomic theory course has been to make student thinking more sophisticated and context-rich. The design of activities where students collect, manipulate, and analyze data also contributes to develop critical information literacy skills. Replacing many of the exercises aimed at rote replication of the content of lectures, the activities organized around quantitative case studies require from students a more extended and sophisticated engagement with the material.

Wolla, Scott. “Job Market Signaling: An Active Learning Approach for Teaching Education and Employment.” Social Studies Research and Practice, 2014, 9(2), pp. 89-106.
Abstract: 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. 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.

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


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Education Level: College Non-educators
Subjects: Economics Data Literacy
Resource Types: Paper Data Charts/Graphs
Languages: English
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