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Why is voluntary financial education so unpopular ? Experimental evidence from Mexico

Author

Listed:
  • Bruhn, Miriam
  • Lara Ibarra, Gabriel
  • McKenzie, David

Abstract

Take-up of voluntary financial education programs is typically extremely low. This paper reports on randomized experiments around a large financial literacy course offered in Mexico City to understand the reasons for low take-up, and to measure the impact of financial education. It documents that the general public displays little interest in such courses and that participation is low even among individuals who express interest in financial education. The paper experimentally investigates barriers to take-up, and finds no impact of relaxing reputational or logistical constraints and no evidence that time inconsistency is the reason for limited participation. Even relatively sizeable monetary incentives get less than 40 percent of interested individuals invited to training to attend. Using a randomized encouragement design, the authors measure the impact of the course on financial knowledge and behavior. Attending training results in a 9 percentage point increase in financial knowledge and a 9 percentage point increase in saving outcomes, but no impact on borrowing behavior. Administrative data indicate that the savings impact is relatively short-lived. The results suggest people are making optimal choices not to attend financial education courses, and point to the limits of using general purpose courses to improve financial behavior for the general population.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruhn, Miriam & Lara Ibarra, Gabriel & McKenzie, David, 2013. "Why is voluntary financial education so unpopular ? Experimental evidence from Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6439, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6439
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Bernheim, B. Douglas & Garrett, Daniel M. & Maki, Dean M., 2001. "Education and saving:: The long-term effects of high school financial curriculum mandates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 435-465, June.
    2. Jeremy Burke & Kata Mihaly, 2012. "Financial Literacy, Social Perception and Strategic Default," Working Papers WR-937, RAND Corporation.
    3. John Gibson & David McKenzie & Bilal Zia, 2014. "The Impact of Financial Literacy Training for Migrants," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 28(1), pages 130-161.
    4. Jing Cai & Alain De Janvry & Elisabeth Sadoulet, 2015. "Social Networks and the Decision to Insure," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 81-108, April.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Xu, Lisa & Zia, Bilal, 2012. "Financial literacy around the world : an overview of the evidence with practical suggestions for the way forward," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6107, The World Bank.
    8. Doi, Yoko & McKenzie, David & Zia, Bilal, 2012. "Who you train matters : identifying complementary effects of financial education on migrant households," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6157, The World Bank.
    9. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2005. "Consumption versus Expenditure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 919-948, October.
    10. Jeremy Burke & Kata Mihaly, 2012. "Financial Literacy, Social Perception and Strategic Default," Working Papers 937, RAND Corporation.
    11. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Why is financial education unpopular?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-06-17 18:48:00

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. David McKenzie & Melissa Siegel, 2013. "Eliciting Illegal migration rates through list randomization," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1310, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    3. Shawn Cole & Anna Paulson & Gauri Kartini Shastry, 2016. "High School Curriculum and Financial Outcomes: The Impact of Mandated Personal Finance and Mathematics Courses," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(3), pages 656-698.
    4. Margherita Calderone, 2014. "The Role of Financial Literacy and of Financial Education Interventions in Developing Countries," DIW Roundup: Politik im Fokus 34, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    5. Bruhn, Miriam & de Souza Leao, Luciana & Legovini, Arianna & Marchetti, Rogelio & Zia, Bilal, 2013. "The impact of high school financial education : experimental evidence from Brazil," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6723, The World Bank.
    6. Entorf, Horst & Hou, Jia, 2018. "Financial Education for the Disadvantaged? A Review," IZA Discussion Papers 11515, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Financial Literacy; Access to Finance; Education For All; Access&Equity in Basic Education; Primary Education;

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