Results from the latest round of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) show that 22 percent of U.S. 15-year-old students lack basic financial literacy skills.Results from the latest round of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) show that 22 percent of U.S. 15-year-old students lack basic financial literacy skills.

The assessment tests 15-year-old stu-dents on their knowledge and understanding of fundamental elements of the financial world—including financial concepts, products, and risks—and their ability to apply what they know to real-life situations involving financial issues and decisions.

The average score for U.S. 15-year-olds was unchanged since 2012, the first time the PISA financial literacy assessment was conducted.

“These are fundamental life skills that are absolutely essential for all Americans, but the study shows that many of our students—roughly one-fifth overall—don’t have the skills they need to make prudent de-cisions about their personal finances,” said Peggy G. Carr, acting commissioner of NCES. “We also see sizeable gaps between students in the United States. Only 3 percent of students attending lower-income schools, for example, were high performers in financial literacy, compared to 45 percent of students attending higher-income schools. Conversely, 38 percent of students in lower-income schools were low performers, compared to 16 percent in higher-income schools.”

The combined average score for four provinces in mainland China—Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong (B-S-J-G)—was the highest average score among the 15 participating education systems. Students in the Flemish Community of Belgium, the seven Canadian provinces (combined score), the Russian Federation, the Netherlands, and Australia also scored higher, on average, than U.S. students.

“PISA shows how our 15-year-olds are performing compared to their peers in a very diverse group of participating systems,” Carr said. “And PISA is especially valuable because it is the only nationally representative study in the United States that measures the applied financial literacy skills of young people; these are the skills students need to be prepared for the financial challenges they will encounter as young adults.”

Students in Spain, Lithuania, the Slovak Republic, Chile, Peru, and Brazil had lower average scores than students in the U.S. The average U.S. score was comparable to average scores for students in Poland and Italy.