Source: Miriam Jorgensen and Lewis Mandell, Jump$tart and the Native Financial Education Coalition (NFEC)
Focus: Secondary Students
Summary: Tests of high school seniors conducted by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy (Jump$tart) in the USA indicate that Native American youth are less prepared to make informed financial choices than most of their peers. Comparing the five Jump$tart surveys that have been conducted since 1997, it is clear that while Native students are not always at the back of the pack, their financial literacy scores are consistently among the worst in the overall population of high school seniors. In 2006, Native American students’ average financial literacy score was only 84 percent of the overall national average; nearly 87 percent of Native students received a “failing” score, compared to 62 percent of all students.
Measured as a percent of all students’ scores, Native Americans have relatively large disadvantages in the income and in money management domains, where they score, respectively, 78.4 percent and 83.6 percent as high as the national average.
Statistically significant correlations suggest several factors that may influence student performance.
- Parental education: Native students’ financial knowledge tends to be higher when their parents have higher levels of education.
- Ambitious plans and expectations: Native students’ scores are higher when their plans for or expectations about their futures are ambitious. In particular, Native students’ scores are higher when they plan to attend a 4-year college or university, when they expect to earn at least $40,000 or more annually, and when they anticipate entering a professional career.
Today’s youth are literally the economic engines of tomorrow. But they are less able to fulfill their potential if they cannot use resources wisely. This is especially true in Native communities—whether those communities are struggling to extract themselves from dependency or learning to manage and preserve new wealth—because financial resources themselves have been scarce in Native America, and there is a greater need to use those resources for both community and individual wealth building.
Jump$tart and the members of the Native Financial Education Coalition (NFEC) are working to close the gap between Native youth and their peers by advocating for improved financial education opportunities in Native communities… to offer culturally appropriate financial education curricula.