Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



We study the rapidly growing literature on the causal effects of financial education programs in a meta-analysis of 76 randomized experiments with a total sample size of over 160,000 individuals. The evidence shows that financial education programs have, on average, positive causal treatment effects on financial knowledge and downstream financial behaviors. Treatment effects are economically meaningful in size, similar to those realized by educational interventions in other domains and are at least three times as large as the average effect documented in earlier work. These results are robust to the method used, restricting the sample to papers published in top economics journals, including only studies with adequate power, and accounting for publication selection bias in the literature. We conclude with a discussion of the cost-effectiveness of financial education interventions.


financial education, financial literacy, financial behavior, RCT, meta-analysis

JEL Code

D14 (personal finance), G53 (financial literacy), I21 (analysis of education)

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

All findings, interpretations, and conclusions of this paper represent the views of the author(s) and not those of the Wharton School or the Pension Research Council. © 2020 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.


The authors thank participants of the 5th Cherry Blossom Financial Education Institute in Washington, D.C., and Michael Collins, Andrea Hasler, Rachael Meager, Olivia Mitchell, and Pierre-Carl Michaud for many helpful comments. They thank Shawn Cole, Daniel Fernandes, Xavier Gine, John Lynch, Richard Netemeyer, and Bilal Zia for providing details about their studies. Financial support by DFG through CRC TRR 190 is gratefully acknowledged.

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 28 April 2020