The Wall Street meltdown of 2008 and the ensuing recession did little to help make high school seniors financially savvy, and less than half of them have a solid understanding of economics, according to a U.S. Education Department report released last week.

That might mean many have difficulty understanding the impact of a poor credit rating, the relationship between consumer spending and higher unemployment, or how inflation can eat away at pay raises.

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Students' scores of economic literacy changed little between 2006 and 2012, suggesting that the national discussion about the millions of jobs that were lost and homes that were foreclosed didn't translate to higher academic achievement.

"It is astonishing that high school seniors do not know more about how economics affects their wallets, their country and the world at a pivotal time in their lives, whether they choose to enter the workforce or pursue higher education," said David Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which runs the federal tests.

The findings show that more than half of students leave high school without an economic knowledge that federal officials consider proficient. In 2012, only 39 percent of students had a basic understanding of economics.

About 10,900 seniors at 480 public and private high schools took the economics test.