More than one in six 15-year-old students in the United States (17.8%) do not reach the baseline level of proficiency in financial literacy, according to recently released results from a 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey. U.S. students ranked in the middle of the pack among 18 countries and economies participating in the survey. Those with the top average scores were Shanghai-China, the Flemish Community of Belgium, Estonia, Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, and Poland.
“Developing financial literacy skills and knowledge is critical now that individuals are becoming increasingly responsible at an ever earlier age for financial risks affecting their future,” said Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which administers PISA. Key findings from the survey included the following:
- The gender gap in financial literacy was much smaller than in the PISA tests in math or reading, with no significant difference between the performance of boys and girls, except in Italy.
- The inequality gap between socio-economically advantaged and less-advantaged students mirrored that in key school subjects.
- About one in 10 students in the United States was a top performer (9.4% compared to the average of 9.7% across OECD countries). Top performers can handle a variety of high-level financial tasks.
- About half of 15-year-old students in the United States reported that they held a bank account, and they performed better than those who did not, but this performance gap disappears after accounting for socio-economic status.