Making sense of financial education

Valerie Klein, University of Pennsylvania


A major area of concern for sociologists and economists who study poverty and inequality is the financial well being of low-income individuals as measured by their opportunities to participate in what is considered the "mainstream financial market." Scholars suggest that a myriad of factors, including lack of convenient access to banks, little access to information and educational opportunities about a rapidly changing financial market, and conscious choices not to have a formal banking relationship limit participation in the mainstream financial market (Berry, 2004; Bond & Boucher, 2000; Braunstein & Welch, 2002; Carr & Scheutz, 2001; Conley, 1999; Dunham, 2001; Edin, 2001; Hajaj, 2002; Manning, 2000; Stegman & Faris, 2003). Financial education is framed as a tool to help low-income individuals move from the alternative financial sector to the mainstream. To analyze the role that financial education does and can play in the lives of low-income individuals, this dissertation explores the financial practices and perspectives of students and teachers in a financial education program offered at two local non-profit organizations. I argue that it is critical to examine the actual decision making processes of individuals in this market, not just the products they engage with, in order to fully develop a plan to either (a) implement effective financial education programs that realistically target the needs of low-income individuals and (b) understand for whom such programs are appropriate and for whom they are not. The findings in this dissertation suggest that, to be effective, financial education must address the reality that as individuals make financial decisions, they take into consider a myriad of financial factors many of which are unique to that individuals. The financial education programs in this study tended to offer prescriptive formats for financial management and choices. Instead, these programs should work to help individuals learn to consider their personal factors and make personal choices that reflect their realities. In some cases, this means that a combination of alternative and mainstream financial services may be the best options for some individuals.

Subject Area

Home economics education|Public policy|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Klein, Valerie, "Making sense of financial education" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3271849.