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The Geography of Financial Literacy

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  • Christopher B. Bumcrot
  • Judy Lin
  • Annamaria Lusardi
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    Abstract

    This report explores how well equipped today's households are to make complex financial decisions in the face of often high-cost and high-risk financial instruments. Specifically it focuses on financial literacy. Most importantly, it describes the geography of financial literacy, i.e., how financial literacy is distributed across the fifty US states. It describes the correlation of financial literacy and some important aggregate variables, such as state-level poverty rates. Finally, it examines how much differences in financial literacy can be explained by states' demographic and economic characteristics. To assess financial literacy, five questions were added to the 2009 Financial Capability Study, covering fundamental concepts of economics and finance encountered in everyday life: simple calculations about interest rates and inflation, the workings of risk diversification, the relationship between bond prices and interest rates, and the relationship between interest payments and maturity in mortgages. An index of financial literacy was constructed based on the number of correct answers provided by each respondent to the five financial literacy questions. The financial literacy index reveals wide variation in financial literacy across states. Much of the variation is attributable to differences in the demographic make-up of the states; however, a handful of states have either higher or lower levels of financial literacy than is explained by demographics alone. Also, there is a significant correlation between the financial literacy of a state and that state's poverty level. The findings indicate directions for policy makers and practitioners interested in targeting areas where financial literacy is low.

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    File URL: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/working_papers/2011/RAND_WR893.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by RAND Corporation Publications Department in its series Working Papers with number 893.

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    Length: 17 pages
    Date of creation: Nov 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ran:wpaper:893

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    References

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    1. Justine S. Hastings & Lydia Tejeda-Ashton, 2008. "Financial Literacy, Information, and Demand Elasticity: Survey and Experimental Evidence from Mexico," NBER Working Papers 14538, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1996. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Discussion Papers 96-01, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    3. Sumit Agarwal & Paige Marta Skiba & Jeremy Tobacman, 2009. "Payday Loans and Credit Cards: New Liquidity and Credit Scoring Puzzles?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 412-17, May.
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    7. Fornero, Elsa & Monticone, Chiara, 2011. "Financial literacy and pension plan participation in Italy," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(04), pages 547-564, October.
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    13. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2008. "Planning and Financial Literacy: How Do Women Fare?," CeRP Working Papers 72, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
    14. Jere R. Behrman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Cindy Soo & David Bravo, 2010. "Financial Literacy, Schooling, and Wealth Accumulation," NBER Working Papers 16452, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    16. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Nidia García Bohórquez & Fayber Alfonso Acosta Pardo & Jorge Leonardo Rueda Gil, 2013. "Determinantes de la Alfabetización Financiera de la Población Bogotana Bancarizada," BORRADORES DE ECONOMIA 011096, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA.
    2. Nidia García Bohórquez & Fayber Alfonso Acosta Pardo & Jorge Leonardo Rueda Gil, 2013. "Determinantes de la Alfabetización Financiera de la Población Bogotana Bancarizada," Borradores de Economia 792, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.

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