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Financial Literacy, Schooling, and Wealth Accumulation


  • Jere R. Behrman
  • Olivia S. Mitchell
  • Cindy Soo
  • David Bravo


Financial literacy and schooling attainment have been linked to household wealth accumulation. Yet prior findings may be biased due to noisy measures of financial literacy and schooling, as well as unobserved factors such as ability, intelligence, and motivation that could enhance financial literacy and schooling but also directly affect wealth accumulation. We use a new household dataset and an instrumental variables approach to isolate the causal effects of financial literacy and schooling on wealth accumulation. While financial literacy and schooling attainment are both strongly positively associated with wealth outcomes in linear regression models, our approach reveals even stronger and larger effects of financial literacy on wealth. Estimated impacts are substantial enough to suggest that investments in financial literacy could have large positive effects on household wealth accumulation.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16452
    Note: AG

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alberto Arenas de Mesa & David Bravo & Jere R. Behrman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Petra E. Todd, 2006. "The Chilean Pension Reform Turns 25: Lessons From the Social Protection Survey," NBER Working Papers 12401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell & Vilsa Curto, 2009. "Financial Literacy among the Young," Working Papers wp191, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    4. David Bravo Urrutia & Olivia S. Mitchell & Petra Todd, 2007. "Learning from the Chilean Experience: The Determinants of Pension Switching," Working Papers wp266, University of Chile, Department of Economics.
    5. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2008. "Planning and Financial Literacy: How Do Women Fare?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 413-417, May.
    6. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Baby Boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 205-224, January.
    7. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S Mitchelli, 2007. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Preparedness: Evidence and Implications for Financial Education," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan;National Association for Business Economics, vol. 42(1), pages 35-44, January.
    8. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Juergen Schupp & Gert Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Working Papers 2096, The Field Experiments Website.
    9. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "Why the Apple Doesn't Fall Far: Understanding Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 437-449, March.
    10. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia Mitchell, 2007. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Planning: New Evidence from the Rand American Life Panel," Working Papers wp157, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    11. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2017. "How Ordinary Consumers Make Complex Economic Decisions: Financial Literacy and Retirement Readiness," Quarterly Journal of Finance (QJF), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 7(03), pages 1-31, September.
    12. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2002. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," NBER Working Papers 8920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. repec:feb:framed:0019 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Catherine Eckel & Cathleen Johnson & Claude Montmarquette, 2004. "Saving Decisions of the Working Poor: Short-and Long-Term Horizons," CIRANO Working Papers 2004s-45, CIRANO.
    15. Behrman, Jere R & Rosenzweig, Mark R & Taubman, Paul, 1994. "Endowments and the Allocation of Schooling in the Family and in the Marriage Market: The Twins Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1131-1174, December.
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    JEL classification:

    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions


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