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Data Literacy for Economics Students – The Cengage Blog

Data Literacy for Economics Students – The Cengage Blog
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Diego Mendez-Carbajo is a Senior Economic Schooling Specialist at the Federal Reserve Lender of St. Louis. This post is dependent on his presentation at the 2021 Economics Instructing Meeting. These are his thoughts and not those of his employer.


About the last number of a long time, the professional practice of Economics has markedly greater the volume and impression of its information-focused do the job. Often referred to as an “empirical transform,” the expanding great importance of financial info around mathematical principle is hardly mirrored in tutorial classroom practices. Which are the foundational data literacy skills in Economics? How can instructors assist pupils acquire the information expertise that will very best place them for experienced achievements?

Let us start by defining the concept of economic data literacy. Following, we’ll describe quite a few sources to embed info literacy in your instructing. We’ll demonstrate you an example you can quickly use as a educating template.

What Is Financial Information Literacy?

Financial details literacy can be defined as the mixture of precise expected university student competencies in Economics and the broad knowledge literacy demands of the workforce. Even nevertheless the scholarly literature in Economics education identifies a number of certain details-similar competencies and the expert literature in library science emphasizes the price of generic data literacy techniques, a slim definition of financial info literacy is not at present accessible.

Data literacy in Economics is the combination of 3 sets of skills students can receive via an undergraduate instruction:

  • Data literacy, as defined by the American Library Affiliation, is a set of capabilities requiring people today to “recognize when facts is needed and have the capacity to locate, consider, and use properly the needed information and facts.”
  • Numeracy, as outlined by the National Numeracy Network, includes the “ability to connect at a substantial level about quantitative troubles in day to day everyday living.”
  • Economics, as described by the American Financial Association, will involve the use of “theoretical models or empirical data” to study a quite broad array of social questions.

In this perception, a literate particular person can properly blend quantitative facts and financial analysis to respond to questions connected to determination-producing.


Instructing with FRED®

Considering that 1991, Economics instructors have been capable to very easily entry, for no cost, a great prosperity of quantitative facts by Federal Reserve Economic Knowledge (FRED). As the greatest on the internet aggregator of U.S. statistics—currently containing 816,000 unique knowledge series from 107 distinct resources, the FRED® portal was frequented by far more than 8 million consumers in 2020. Various authors have documented its use for educating Economics.

Below we describe a number of methods for training with FRED® produced by the Economic Education workforce at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the house of FRED®.


Lesson Strategies:

Shown in the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis economic training page, these self-contained assets offer instructors with fully articulated and prepared-to-use educational interventions on a large wide variety of subject areas. All lesson designs involve a action-by-phase description of the procedure for employing the lesson approach in the classroom. To market college student engagement, the lesson programs prioritize compact-group work and discussion above lecturing.

For instance, the “Neighborhood Redlining and Homeownership” lesson approach describes a small-team action where college students evaluate FRED® knowledge on household values and racial segregation to assess prosperity accumulation throughout racial groups. Similarly, in the “Details Literacy: The Composition Outcome” lesson approach, students use FRED® info to estimate and examine the unemployment fee for diverse racial and ethnic groups.

FRED® Interactive Modules:

Obtainable by way of the Econ Lowdown portal, these on-line modules introduce learners to the observe of active learning with economic info by embedding FRED® into fingers-on, interactive instruction. Every FRED® Interactive module is made up of two different styles of activities: a graph-building exercise and a graph-examining questionnaire.

The 12 modules at the moment readily available permit instructors to aid independent pupil mastering on matters as diverse as the distinction involving nominal and real wages and the purpose why the 2007-2009 economic downturn is occasionally named “the Great Economic downturn.”

FRED® Blog Examining Issue and Solutions:

Available by means of the Econ Lowdown portal, these quick looking at assignments introduce learners to economic knowledge and their interpretation. Based mostly on a curated choice of FRED® Blog posts, each individual of the 34 currently accessible modules include things like a 4-query, various-selection quiz. The thoughts immediate the students’ reading of each web site submit toward producing details literacy, numeracy, and financial evaluation techniques. The on the net quiz is immediately graded, facilitating unbiased university student get the job done.

You can use these assets as pre-lecture introductions to subjects ranging from labor marketplaces to monetary policy resources. Alternatively, use them as publish-lecture assignments to illustrate broad ideas in Economics these as cash flow and prosperity inequality.


How to Embed Financial Info Literacy in Your Instructing: An Case in point

Establishing foundational info literacy abilities among pupils starts off by drawing their awareness to facts visualizations. This encourages the transfer of basic details literacy capabilities to the endeavor of interpreting quantitative info.

For illustration, in an introductory Economics system speaking about labor marketplaces, an instructor can guide a structured discussion about labor pressure participation fees of gentlemen and gals with a disability around the subsequent FRED® graph employing the accompanying thoughts:


What is the source of the information on the disability position of employees?

Students can learn to distinguish among the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—the source of the information, and FRED® at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis—the group that helps make the data obtainable to the community by way of its internet site. The right acknowledgement of authorship is an facts literacy talent immediately transferrable to the domain of knowledge literacy.


What are the units of the facts?

Reading the vertical axis of the FRED® graph, the pupils can implement a blend of info literacy and numeracy competencies to name the ratio in between two quantities (i.e., the range of workers with a incapacity in the labor drive and the variety of employees in the labor drive), multiplied by 100, as a p.c. Determining the models of the information as a share is a prerequisite to the right way interpret the data revealed in the graph.


What do the lines in the graph exhibit?

Applying foundational numeracy abilities, the college students can interpret percentages as proportions, fairly than ranges. As this sort of, the traces in the graph clearly show the portion of the full labor power created up by both males or females with a disability. Additionally, the relative posture of every single line and their slopes notify the college students about which inhabitants team with a disability has a proportionally bigger existence in the labor pressure and no matter whether that presence is raising, decreasing, or remaining constant more than time.

What data does the graph express?

Combining information literacy, numeracy, and economic assessment competencies, the students can translate the info introduced in the graph into a concise assertion describing the labor marketplace. Understanding that the details are presented as percentages, noting that the relative number of each men and ladies with a disability in the labor drive is nearly similar, and observing their modify above time, students can conclude that (1) concerning 2009 and 2020 the portion of men and women of all ages with a disability in the labor pressure lowered and (2) there had been no gendered variations in the labor power participation premiums of personnel with a incapacity.



The progress of foundational facts literacy expertise amongst college students does not call for a focused tutorial class or a stand-alone study course device. The combined competencies of details literacy, numeracy, and economic assessment are embedded in things to do these as developing and reading through FRED® graphs.

Instructors can faucet into assets for impartial, on the net student mastering as perfectly as deal with-to-deal with modest-measurement crew learning by checking out the Tools for Training with FRED® webpage at the Federal Reserve Financial institution of St. Louis.


To study a lot more about training with FRED®, examine Diego Mendez-Carbajo’s presentation Using FRED Facts to Deal with Diversity and Inclusion at the Cengage 2021 Economics Instructing Convention.