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Working Papers

April 2022, No. 22-03R

Is It Still an Econ Course? The Effect of a Standardized Personal Finance Test on the Learning of Economics (Revised October 2022)

Stephen Day, Evelyn Nunes and Bruno Sultanum

We study the implications of mixing economics and personal finance standards in a high school course. Using administrative, survey, and testing data on college students, we find that learning personal finance can help the learning of economics for some students and hurt it for others. We estimate that students who received more instruction in economics score almost 5 percentage points higher on our economics test. Furthermore, we estimate the effect of being assigned a certification test in personal finance as a part of this course. Taking the personal finance certification test increases economics test scores by 2.5 percentage points for the average student, but this effect is not uniform across students. The certification test significantly increases the economics scores of students with low SAT scores, while decreasing the economics scores of those with high SAT scores. Our results emphasize the potentially idiosyncratic effects of mixing economics with personal finance.


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