Ready-made current events for the economics classroom

On a daily basis, economics teachers introduce their students to the fundamental concepts of scarcity, opportunity cost, trade-offs, choices, rational decision making, and cost-benefit analysis while grappling with the practical application of these central tenets. They balance lesson planning, grading, coaching, and leading extra-curricular activities with taking hall duty, bus duty, and lunch duty; attending department meetings, faculty meetings, and professional development sessions; and making calls home to or meeting with concerned parents.

Oh, and of course they also teach!

Those are the "normal" challenges of teaching. But as a result of the recent recession and the sluggish recovery, school systems now face serious budget constraints. Furlough days, larger class sizes, the elimination of professional development days, and pressures to provide lessons with increasingly differentiated approaches are just a few of the obstacles confronting teachers.

A common request we get from teachers facing these pressures is for quick ideas on how they can connect current headlines and issues to the fundamental economic concepts they are teaching so that the topics come alive for their students. EconSouth is a quarterly economic and business magazine, published by the Atlanta Fed, with Magazine articles and regular features that address current events affecting the Southeast, national, or international economy. /p>

Below are links to articles from the 2011 issues of EconSouth that will help you link current events to some of the common standards found in most economics courses. Accompanying guided discussion questions are included for use with the articles.

This regular feature serves as a primer on key economic concepts each quarter. In 2011, for example, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart and Atlanta Fed research economists explored inflation versus the cost of living, speculation and futures contracts in the oil market, GDP growth, Okun's Law, the unemployment rate, and the source of financial capital for start-up businesses.

First Quarter 2011 Always and Everywhere: A Central Bank Phenomenon  Discussion questions and related links 
Second Quarter 2011 Ruminating about Speculating Discussion questions and related links 
Third Quarter 2011 GDP Growth, the Unemployment Rate, and Okun's Law Discussion questions and related links 
Fourth Quarter 2011 Start-Ups, Job Creation, and Financing Discussion questions and related links 

You can use "Grassroots," another quarterly staple in EconSouth, to compare and contrast three metro-areas in the Sixth District. Highlighted in 2011 were the cities of Augusta, Georgia; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Muscle Shoals. Have students answer the discussion questions found here  after reading the following articles.

First Quarter 2011 Augusta, Georgia: Keeps Out of the Rough
Second Quarter 2011 Lafayette, Louisiana: Where Energy Heats the Economy Discussion questions 
Third Quarter 2011 Muscle Shoals, Alabama: The Shoals Rounds a Long Curve

Feature-length articles
The following feature-length articles provide more in-depth examination of key economics topics. Have students explore the rising price of a college education, cigarette tax rates, the state of the South's manufacturing base, and the exogenous shocks that reverberated through the global economy in 2011.

First Quarter 2011 Cap in Hand: The High Price of Higher Education Discussion questions and related links 
Second Quarter 2011 Tax and Nicotine Discussion questions and related links 
Third Quarter 2011 Made in the South: A Bad News, Good News Story Discussion questions
Fourth Quarter 2011 Shocks Unbalance the Global Economy Discussion questions and related links 

* These discussion questions were submitted by Mark DeCourcy, AP macroeconomics teacher, Starr's Mill High School, Peachtree City, Ga.

By Amy Hennessy, economic and financial education specialist, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
January 24, 2012