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Optimal Financial Knowledge and Wealth Inequality

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  • Annamaria Lusardi

    () (The George Washington University School of Business & NBER)

  • Pierre-Carl Michaud

    (Université du Québec à Montréal & RAND)

  • Olivia S. Mitchell

    (Wharton School & NBER)

Abstract

While financial knowledge is strongly positively related to household wealth, there is also considerable cross-sectional variation in both financial knowledge and net asset levels. To explore these patterns, we develop a calibrated stochastic life cycle model featuring endogenous financial knowledge accumulation. The model generates substantial wealth inequality, over and above that of standard life cycle models; this is because higher earners typically have more hump-shaped labor income profiles and lower retirement benefits which, when interacted with precautionary saving motives, boost their need for private wealth accumulation and thus financial knowledge. Our simulations show that endogenous financial knowledge accumulation has the potential to account for a large proportion of wealth inequality. The fraction of the population which is rationally financially “ignorant” depends on the generosity of the retirement system and the level of means-tested benefits. Educational efforts to enhance financial savvy early in the life cycle so as to produce one percentage point excess return per year would be valued highly by people in all educational groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Annamaria Lusardi & Pierre-Carl Michaud & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2013. "Optimal Financial Knowledge and Wealth Inequality," CeRP Working Papers 133, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  • Handle: RePEc:crp:wpaper:133
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. Tullio Jappelli & Mario Padula, 2013. "Consumption Growth, the Interest Rate, and Financial Literacy," CSEF Working Papers 329, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    3. Annamaria Lusardi & Pierre-Carl Michaud & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2017. "Optimal Financial Knowledge and Wealth Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(2), pages 431-477.
    4. repec:spr:epolit:v:35:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s40888-018-0097-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Jappelli, Tullio & Padula, Mario, 2013. "Investment in financial literacy and saving decisions," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 2779-2792.
    6. 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.
    7. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. & Sinning, Mathias G., 2016. "Locus of control and savings," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 113-130.
    8. Entorf, Horst & Hou, Jia, 2018. "Financial Education for the Disadvantaged? A Review," IZA Discussion Papers 11515, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Agarwalla, Sobhesh Kumar & Barua, Samir K. & Jacob, Joshy & Varma, Jayanth R., 2015. "Financial Literacy among Working Young in Urban India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 101-109.
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    12. repec:spr:jlabre:v:39:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s12122-018-9265-z is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Lührmann, Melanie & Serra-Garcia, Marta & Winter, Joachim, 2015. "Teaching teenagers in finance: Does it work?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 160-174.
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    15. repec:spr:schmbr:v:18:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s41464-017-0040-0 is not listed on IDEAS
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    17. repec:eee:jeborg:v:150:y:2018:i:c:p:62-85 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Tim Kaiser & Lukas Menkhoff, 2018. "Active Learning Fosters Financial Behavior: Experimental Evidence," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1743, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    19. Kramer, Marc M., 2016. "Financial literacy, confidence and financial advice seeking," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PA), pages 198-217.
    20. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:29:y:2018:i:c:p:179-188 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Entorf, Horst & Hou, Jia, 2018. "Financial education for the disadvantaged? A review," SAFE Working Paper Series 205, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt.
    22. Boshara, Ray & Emmons, William R. & Noeth, Bryan J., 2015. "The Demographics of Wealth - How Age, Education and Race Separate Thrivers from Strugglers in Today's Economy. Essay No. 2: The Role of Education," Demographics of Wealth, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue 2, pages 1-28.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions

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