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The Financial Education Fallacy


  • Lauren E. Willis


Research to date does not demonstrate a causal chain from financial education to welfare-enhancing financial behavior, in part due to biases, heuristics, and emotional influences on decisions. Yet the search for effective financial education continues. But it is time to ask whether giving every person effective financial education would make us better off. Two reasons it might not are discussed here. First, the time, expense, and invasion of privacy required would be enormous. Second, such a world would entail a decrease in individual autonomy. Alternative tools could potentially increase household financial welfare and security at lower social and individual expense.

Suggested Citation

  • Lauren E. Willis, 2011. "The Financial Education Fallacy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 429-434, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:3:p:429-34

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ian Hathaway & Sameer Khatiwada, 2008. "Do financial education programs work?," Working Paper 0803, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bianchi, Milo, 2017. "Financial Literacy and Portfolio Dynamics," TSE Working Papers 17-808, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Disney, Richard & Gathergood, John, 2013. "Financial literacy and consumer credit portfolios," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 2246-2254.
    3. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2014. "The Economic Importance of Financial Literacy: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(1), pages 5-44, March.
    4. Cristina OTTAVIANI & Daniela VANDONE, 2016. "Is Impulsivity a Mediator of the Relationship between Financial Literacy and Debt Decisions?," Departmental Working Papers 2016-06, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    5. Dold, Malte, 2015. "Condorcet's jury theorem as a rational justification of soft paternalistic consumer policies," Discussion Paper Series 2015-07, University of Freiburg, Wilfried Guth Endowed Chair for Constitutional Political Economy and Competition Policy.
    6. Giofré, Maela, 2017. "Financial education, investor protection and international portfolio diversification," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 111-139.
    7. Bucciol, Alessandro & Veronesi, Marcella, 2014. "Teaching children to save: What is the best strategy for lifetime savings?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 1-17.
    8. Mugerman, Yevgeny & Sade, Orly & Shayo, Moses, 2014. "Long term savings decisions: Financial reform, peer effects and ethnicity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 235-253.
    9. Kramer, Marc M., 2016. "Financial literacy, confidence and financial advice seeking," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PA), pages 198-217.
    10. Batabyal, Amitrajeet & Nijkamp, Peter, 2016. "On Pessimism and Optimism by Forward Looking Agents and the Need for Social Security," MPRA Paper 75965, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 03 Jan 2017.
    11. Cordero, José Manuel & Gil, María & Pedraja Chaparro, Francisco, 2016. "Exploring the effect of financial literacy courses on student achievement: a cross-country approach using PISA 2012 data," MPRA Paper 75474, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Bruhn, Miriam & Lara Ibarra, Gabriel & McKenzie, David, 2014. "The minimal impact of a large-scale financial education program in Mexico City," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 184-189.
    13. repec:spr:jbecon:v:87:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s11573-017-0853-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. F. Douglas Foster & Juliana Ng & Marvin Wee, 2015. "Presentation Format and Financial Literacy: Accessibility and Assessability of Retirement Savings Statements," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(3), pages 519-549, November.
    15. Gill, Andrej & Juranek, Steffen & Lizarazo, Christian & Visnjic, Nikolai & Walz, Uwe, 2012. "Anreize, systemische Risiken und Intransparenz: Lehren aus der Finanz- und Staatsschuldenkrise," CFS Working Paper Series 2013/01, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).

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