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Executive Summary

Building personal financial capability early in life can give people a foundation for later-life financial well-being. Schools are an important channel to provide the education that can improve financial capability. Financial educators and policymakers face many decisions about whether and how to implement financial education. Strong research can provide some grounding for these decisions. This report, “A review of youth financial education: Effects and evidence” responds to the question: “What evidence has been established that can guide efforts to provide young people with effective financial education?”

This report reviews current research and reporting in the field, and is intended to inform policymakers, practitioners, financial educators, and researchers of the current state of rigorous evidence on financial education in schools.

This report features studies that (1) evaluate youth financial education programs in schools, (2) have a causal interpretation evidenced by a randomized controlled trial, natural experiment setting, or a valid pre-post study design, and (3) have been published in peer-reviewed academic journals or as reviewed working papers. Note that the studies predominately relate to schoolbased programs, as this is the context in which most youth financial education research has occurred.

There are three clear and consistent takeaways from the rigorous studies featured:

  • Well-implemented state financial education mandates led to a clear improvement in financial behaviors.
  • Many U.S. financial education programs improve financial knowledge for students, though effect sizes vary based on the population served, amount of instruction time, and topics covered.
  • Other countries have used more widespread randomized controlled trials to study the effects of programs as they embed and expand them broadly. Those studies also provide useful information

Across rigorous youth financial education empirical research, findings remain relatively consistent: financial education can improve financial knowledge and financial behaviors. Additional future research would be valuable to further determine what types of programs are most beneficial and for whom.

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