Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Advanced Placement Economics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Abstract

In 2010 the College Board and Educational Testing Service (ETS®) administered 134,747 Advanced Placement (AP®) microeconomics and macroeconomics exams to high school students. The exams are designed to represent the introductory-level micro and macro courses taught in college, and students can earn college credit if they “pass” the exams. The present article discusses the beneficial effects of AP economics and suggests modifications that would improve the program as a tool of economic education. The modifications include more emphasis on economic reasoning relative to mechanics; the integration of property rights, entrepreneurship, and dynamic competition into the content; and correction of the imbalanced presentation of topics involving markets and government. With regard to the last point, “market failure” is a component of the courses, but there is no parallel treatment of “government failure.” AP economics courses attract many of our brightest high school students, and it is important that they be equipped with the tools of economic reasoning and an accurate view of the current state of scholarship in the field.

Podcast related to this article: Tawni Ferrarini on Advanced Placement Economics (EJW Audio, January 2011).