As of 2006 (the last year for which statistics were available when I researched the book), only 36 percent of high school seniors could name the government’s primary source of income. (That would be taxes, kids.) Only 33 percent could explain the effect of an increase in real interest rates on consumer borrowing, and a scant 11 percent could analyze how a change in unemployment rates affects income, spending and production.
And of course, it’s not just young adults who are civically illiterate. In 2008, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute administered a basic 33-question civic literacy test to a random sample of 2,508 American adults.