Wall Street's Youngest Winners ; Just a Block from Ground Zero, High-Schoolers from across the US Square off to See Who Knows the Most about Economics

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A question about the comparative advantage theory of economist David Riccardo was considered so easy that it drew a laugh. The identity of the Ford Motor Co.'s stock sticker symbol was another slam dunk.

Such was the nature of the competition at the second annual Economics Challenge national championship held this month at New York City's High School of Economics and Finance (HSEF). The contest is jointly sponsored by the Goldman Sachs Foundation and the National Council on Economic Education, a New York-based group dedicated to promoting economic literacy among American students and teachers.

But if the adults present at the high school competition rejoiced to see a handful of teens from across the US conversant with basic economics, many of them found little to cheer about when viewing the nation as a whole.

According to a recent test given by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), adults answered correctly only 57 percent of the time, while high school students knew only 48 percent of the answers to questions about basic and applied economics. Such results cause business leaders to worry about the economic savvy of their future employees and customers, says Robert Duvall, president and CEO of NCEE.

To counter the trend, the Economics Challenge this year engaged 2,000 students in 26 states. At four regional competitions and the finals, teams answer basic economic questions drafted by a university professor.

This year eight teams competed in the finals. The Minnesota team won the contest open to all students, while an Iowa team took first place in the competition open only to advanced placement or International Baccalaureate students.

Not all the competitors plan to continue studying economics. Several say they will use their college years to pursue such fields as fine arts, engineering, chemistry, and physics.

But the NCEE's hope is that whatever walk of life they enter, they will carry with them a basic grasp of the principles of business.

The HSEF, host school for the event, did not send a winning team to the competition. But the school itself received kudos and verbal honors simply for having its doors open. …


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